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International tourism ministers show broad support for global e-visa system

07 November 2012 by
International tourism ministers show broad support for global e-visa system

Tourism ministers from around the world have raised the possibility of a global e-visa system to cope with the extra one billion people expected to be travelling the globe in 10 years' time.

They discussed the issue at the UNWTO Ministers Summit at the World Travel Market on Tuesday.

While there was some discussion about eliminating visas altogether to ease travel and maximise opportunities, British sports and tourism minister Hugh Robertson reminded delegates: "The terrorism threat is real and cannot be taken lightly."

Most agreed global e-visas were the way forward, with the tourism industry being urged to work together and with security departments to develop common standards.

Jeff Poole, director of government and industry affairs at IATA, also suggested that organisations such as the UNWTO should be helping tourism ministers to convince heads of government of the importance of tourist revenue.

The debate came as the British Government is being urged by the UK tourist industry to introduce dual processing of the Schengen and British visas in a bid to win a greater share of the growing and lucrative Chinese market.

Delegates heard that tight visa restrictions have a negative effect on tourism. David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council pointed out that when the US toughened up its visa laws after 9/11 it lost more than $600b in tourism revenue.

Mexican secretary for tourism Gloria Guevara announced that the country gained a million additional visitors through relaxing entry requirements to visitors of all nationalities if they have a US visa. Rather like the EU's Shengen visa it effectively does away with extra paperwork.

Speakers also predicted that as travellers increasingly choose to make online bookings for flights and hotels, those countries that don't have e-visas will be out of the market.

Other topics covered at the debate included how countries can work together to reduce taxes and increase air travel.

"Some 52% of tourists arrive by air, so the projected] growth will come to nothing unless aviation can grow," said Poole.

By Rosalind Mullen

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