As countries open up, use of e-visas surge
Use of e-visas and visas on arrival has steadily risen, and traditional visas are declining, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation has said in its World Tourism Highlights, 2019 edition.
The report, released in August this year shows that the share of world population requiring a traditional visa declined from 75% in 1980 to 53% in 2018, a clear indication that more countries are simplifying processes to obtain visas, and granting easier access to travellers.
In this context, India appears to have kept pace with global trends, and has gone the extra mile to woo foreign travellers to the subcontinent. It now offers e-visa and visa-free access to travellers from 166 countries across the globe.
In August, the government also said it will introduce flexible e-tourist visa regimes for over 160 countries based on tourist footfall, with higher fee for peak seasons between July and March, and a significantly lower visa fee for travel during the lean tourist season between the months of April and June, ranging between $10 and 25. In contrast, however, the Indian passport grants visa-free entry into 25 countries, and visa on arrival to 39 other nations across the globe.
Apart from the ease in access to visa norms, the UNWTO report also suggests digital technology is shaping traveller experiences, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a key role in transforming tourism, from virtual assistants to companies offering hyper-personalised customer experiences.
In 2018, while Asia and the Pacific recorded the highest growth in arrivals, Europe accounted for half of the world’s tourist arrivals, representing almost 40% of international tourism receipts. In Asia, the numbers were driven by south Asia, with double-digit growth in Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, the sub-region’s largest destination. Vietnam was among the regions that posted strong growth in south-east Asia, while outbound travel from China and India fuelled growth in the sub-region.
The World Tourism Highlights, 2019, which presents the big picture on international tourism trends in 2018 shows that global tourism figures stayed ahead of the global GDP curve backed by “generally moderate” exchange rates and low interest rates. It was buoyed by a strong demand for air travel with over 20,000 unique city pairs connected by air transport over the past two decades.