Visa facilitation in SA Friend or foe?
The Unit ed Nati ons ’ World Travel Organis ati on
(UNWTO) has been a strong advocate of visa facilitation as a way for countries to benefit from increased visitor numbers and the positive economic spin-offs. According to i t s l atest Visa
62% of the world’s population required a traditional visa prior to departure in 2014, down from 77% in 2008. In 2014, 19% of the world’s population was able to enter a destination without a visa, while 16% could receive a visa on arrival, as compared to 17% and 6% in 2008. Over half of all improvements made in the last four years were from “visa required” to “visa on arrival”.
South Africa, however, is making it more difficult for people to acquire visas, requiring potential visitors to apply for visas in person at a South African embassy or consulate in their home countries.
UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai says that visa facilitation is “central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism. Although there is much room for i mprovement, we are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world is taking decisive steps in this regard”. Some of the most open subregions in the world are South-East Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania.
Research by UNWTO and the WTTC shows that the G20 economies could boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122m, generate an extra $206bn (R2.36tr) in tourism exports and create over 5m additional jobs by improving visa processes and entry formalities.
The same research carried out for the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co- operation) and the ASEAN (Association for South-East Asian Nations) countries indicates that visa facilitation could generate important gains for both groups, including the creation of 2.6m jobs in APEC and 650 000 jobs in ASEAN.