As coun­tries open up, use of e-visas surge

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - [email protected] times­ In 2018, fol­lowed by Asia and the Pa­cific with al­most one third in all world re­gions ex­cept the Mid­dle East, where vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives (VFR), or for health or re­li­gious pur­poses pre­dom­i­nates

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.

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