• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Visa openness is back to pre-pandemic levels – UN Tourism report

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UN Tourism has released its latest Tourism Visa Openness report on global visa policies, revealing continuous shifts in international travel regulations.

The report sheds light on the evolving landscape of travel facilitation as well as the Tourism Visa Openness Index that measures the degree to which destinations facilitate tourism and how open a country is in terms of visa facilitation for tourism purposes.

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Also, mobility scores are included to indicate to the extent to which citizens around the world are subject to visa policies, as well as an in-depth analysis of the reciprocity of visa policies.

Key findings of the report include: return to pre-pandemic openness as global destinations’ openness to international travel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels following the lifting of COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

As a consequence of the pandemic, new forms of travel facilitation, such as “nomadic visas”, also appeared.

The report also revealed a decline in traditional visa requirements as fewer people worldwide now require a traditional visa to travel, falling from 77 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2018, and then to 47 percent in 2023.

A boost to the development is visa-exempt travel. With that about 21 percent of the world’s population does not need any form of visa, an increase from 17 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2018.

Also, visa on arrival has improved with 14 percent of the world population able to apply for visa on arrival, an increase from 6 percent in 2008 and 15 percent in 2018.

It also revealed the revolution and impact of eVisas. Currently, about 18 percent of the world population can apply for eVisas, an increase from 3 percent in 2013 and 7 percent in 2018.

According to UN Tourism, a specialized agency of the United Nations, 1 data collection and validation of the report took place from January to May 2023.

Meanwhile, on the regional openness scores, Asia and the Pacific had the highest openness score of all world regions, while the most open sub-regions are South East Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean.

The greatest increase in openness since the last report in 2018 was observed in South Asia and West Africa, while the most restrictive regions remain Central and North Africa, North America and Northern and Western Europe.

But visa exemptions are particularly prevalent in the Caribbean and Central America, visa on arrival policies are common in East Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and West Africa.

It also revealed that traditional visa requests in the Middle East decreased from 71 percent of the global population in 2015 to 57 percent in 2023, with eVisas more prevalent in West and East Africa and South Asia.

The report also underscored the pivotal role of visa policy improvements in fostering tourism growth. Its key recommendations include; increased integration of tourism perspectives into visa strategies, targeted visa-exemption programs for low-risk traveler markets and expanded visa on arrival facilities. In addition, clear communication on visa policies is vital, along with a streamlined visa application process, accelerated processing times and optimized entry procedures for an enhanced visitor experience.