World Wise

The free­don to travel

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Ross Atkin­son

Ac­cess Granted: The free­dom to travel

More and more, the con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with fel­low road war­riors, read­ers, and ac­quain­tances where travel is the cen­tral theme seem to be re­ally fo­cused on their own ex­pe­ri­ences. Af­ter fur­ther re­flec­tion on some of the de­tails, I re­al­ized than many of these con­ver­sa­tion fall into three cat­e­gories; ac­cess to clubs, car­ri­ers and coun­tries.

There’s no ques­tion that ac­cess to each of these has be­come an art form in and of it­self, re­quir­ing pre-plan­ning and a fre­quently up­dated knowl­edge base to take full ad­van­tage of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of each.

Car­ri­ers and Clubs: Loy­alty pro­grams, type of ticket, credit card, loy­alty sta­tus and sev­eral other fac­tors drive into ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. It is the equiv­a­lent of an un­solved Ru­biks Cube.

A re­cent “mil­lion miler” and top loy­alty trav­eler of one US flag­car­ry­ing air­line re­cently found him­self shock­ingly in dou­ble dig­its on the pri­or­ity up­grade wait­list. Af­ter years of book­ing sim­i­lar routes, had he made a dif­fer­ent pur­chase he would have found him­self in a much brighter sit­u­a­tion. Since many rules changed at the be­gin­ning of this year, it pays to keep yourself wiser to the chang­ing game. In this case, “Ac­cess De­nied.’

Coun­tries: We all take ac­cess to clubs, the front of the plane and even to an up­graded room type very per­son­ally. How about the free­dom to travel in and out of a coun­try it­self? In sev­eral of these con­ver­sa­tions I re­al­ized not all of us are of the same na­tion­al­ity – thus not all of us have the same free­dom of travel. Based purely on our na­tion­al­ity, some of us have ac­cess that oth­ers do not share.

Re­mem­ber­ing sev­eral re­cent news items on 48-hour , 72-hour and tourist visas as well as fo­rum topics on in­ter­na­tional lay­overs, I de­cided to look a lit­tle fur­ther into this topic.

I was pleas­antly sur­prised at the qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion I was able to find. One re­source I found was Hen­ley & Part­ners. They are ex­perts on the topic. The firm mon­i­tors year-over-year visa reg­u­la­tions, and re­cently pub­lished an in-depth anal­y­sis of the cur­rent state of af­fairs. As US pass­port hold­ers, for ex­am­ple, we have the free­dom to travel to 172 coun­tries visa-free or ob­tain­ing a visa upon ar­rival. Cit­i­zens of Ger­many, Den­mark and Lux­em­bourg also have ac­cess to the same num­ber of coun­tries. The Finns, Swedes, and Bri­tish are the only other cit­i­zens of the world who have more ac­cess – each with 173 coun­tries.

In terms of travel free­doms, some additional coun­tries are open­ing more ac­cess. A prime ex­am­ple of in­creased ac­cess in the past six months, the Chi­nese cities of Bei­jing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shang­hai now al­low 72 hour visa-free en­try for for­eign trav­el­ers hold­ing third-coun­try visas and con­nect­ing air tick­ets. Guests from 45 coun­tries – in­clud­ing the UK and most Euro­pean coun­tries, Canada, the US, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan, South Korea, the UAE and Qatar – can do a lit­tle city ex­plo­ration with­out the need for a visa.

Look­ing at en­try back into the US, there is no short­age of hor­ror sto­ries fea­tur­ing very long im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms lines. Two pieces of good news: The first is that af­ter six years, the Global En­try pro­gram is grow­ing. Global En­try is open to US cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents, Dutch cit­i­zens, South Korean cit­i­zens and Mex­i­can na­tion­als. Cana­dian cit­i­zens and res­i­dents may en­joy Global En­try ben­e­fits through mem­ber­ship in the NEXUS pro­gram.

Sec­ond, a grow­ing num­ber of pre-screen­ing lo­ca­tions are be­ing au­tho­rized within a flight’s coun­try of ori­gin. This al­lows trav­el­ers to the US to go through screen­ing, im­mi­gra­tion, cus­toms and agri­cul­tural checks be­fore board­ing their flight. To­day this is a very short list. Canada, Ire­land, and the Caribbean were re­cently joined by Abu Dhabi; the first of its kind in the Mid­dle East.

So ac­cess is a re­ally broad topic. Get­ting into your fa­vorite club or find­ing yourself up­graded to the front of the plane or a swankier ho­tel room is all very nice.

But en­try to an­other coun­try is a much larger op­por­tu­nity for all to have the free­dom to travel. BT

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