The latest report from the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) over visa openness around the world highlights that developing economies are generally the most advanced to provide easy entry conditions for travellers as they consider tourism as an important tool to their development. “Prioritizing travel facilitation is central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism. We are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world think likewise” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
Among the regions being the most opened to travellers, UNWTO cited South-East Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania. By contrary, Central Africa, North Africa and North America are the most restrictive sub-regions.
According to UNWTO report, in 2015, destinations around the world still require on average slightly less than two thirds of the world’s population to obtain a traditional visa prior to departure. The agency points out to a favourable trend: at the beginning of 2008, countries still requested an average of 77% of the world’s population to apply for a traditional visa prior to departure. The percentage is now down to 61%.
A total of 54 destinations significantly facilitated the visa process for citizens of 30 or more countries
between 2010 and 2015, by changing their visa policies from “traditional visa” to either “eVisa”, “visa
on arrival” or “no visa required”. Today, some 18% of the world’s population is able to enter a destination without a visa, while another 15% can receive a visa on arrival and 6% is able to obtain eVisas.
How far stands Asia-and particularly ASEAN?
Asia Pacific as a whole has an Openness Index reaching 42. According to UNWTO report, 20% of the world can enter ASPAC without a visa while 23% obtains a visa on arrival. The percentage of the world which is still requested to obtain a traditional visa reached only 46% in 2015, 15 points below the world average.
Within Asia, ASEAN is the best performing region and is indeed the most open sub-region in the entire world. Its Openness Index reaches 51, with 22% of the world population able to come to the region without a visa while another 33% obtains a visa on arrival. Only 34% of the world population needs a traditional visa to enter Southeast Asia. This represents a drop of four points compared to 2014 (38%).
The performance is likely to further improve in 2016 as Indonesia abolished visa for more countries while Myanmar and Vietnam continue to simplify visa procedures or -in the case of Vietnam- mull out the possibility of visa exemption for more countries.
Cambodia remains the most opened country in 2015 of all ASEAN members. In UNWTO report, the Mekong country reached an Openness Index of 72, ranking 16, improving by three positions over 2014.
The trend for more openness continues so far to make progress, despite the rise of concern regarding safety issues.