The European Travel Commission (ETC), the organisation responsible for promoting Europe as a destination, called at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London for reform of the way visas are granted to leisure and business travellers.
The ETC cites benefits to Europe’s economy of 114 billion euros in export revenue and 615,000 new jobs by 2020.
“Europe is losing share of global tourism arrivals and our visa regimes are a contributory factor in this decline”, Peter De Wilde, President of ETC, said during a press conference at the WTM on Tuesday.
Europe’s visa regimes are among the most restrictive in the world. ETC estimates that 56 percent of visitors from non-European markets that arrived in European destinations in 2014 required a visa. These visitors from the largely long-haul source markets are amongst the most valuable because they tend to stay longer and spend more per day than the average visitor.
Three possible scenarios for visa facilitation
Mark Henry, Vice-President and Coordinator of ETC’s visa advocacy work, presented a range of practical initiatives to deliver improved openness in ways that avoid compromising security or immigration control.
ETC´s recommendations for action consider three possible scenarios: First is the adoption of “Best Practice” improvements for the current available visa types to ease the administrative burden for tourists, such as the implementation of simplified application processes, reduced application fees, and lengthening visa validity. Second is the greater deployment of new visa types, in particular greater adoption of electronic visas and visas on arrival. And third is the continued growth in the list of nations whose citizens can access Europe visa-free.
According to Tourism Economics, reforming visas to adopt the “Best Practice” policies for Europe’s top ten, visa-constrained, priority markets — China, Russia, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Belarus, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Thailand — would stimulate 3.4 million additional arrivals /year. This would generate 18.3 billion euros in associated spending up to 2020 and 95,000 new jobs.
New visa types (eVisa or visa on arrival) would deliver 8.5 million more visitors /year, 45 billion euros in additional spending and more than 200,000 additional jobs. The largest benefits would flow from a complete visa waiver for these markets, driving 21.8 million additional arrivals /year. By 2020, this would create 114 billion euros in new export revenue and 615,000 additional jobs.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) recommended governments to embrace visa facilitation, proactively.
WTTC has studied the potential impact of visa reform on the G20 economies and assesses 3.1 million additional direct tourism-related jobs and 5.1 million jobs overall would be created. The G20 could see growth in tourist arrivals of 16 percent and an increase in international tourism receipts of 21 percent in just three years. This represents a gain of 112 million additional international tourists, spending US$206 billion.
“The only path is increased openness”, Mark Henry said.
“The introduction of the Schengen Area in 1995 contributed significantly to boosting travel within Europe; we need to see it extended and reformed to make it much easier for legitimate travellers from long-haul markets to come here and to return again”, he concluded.