The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region stands to gain between 38 and 57 million additional international tourist arrivals by 2016 from visa facilitation and could lead to 2.6 million more jobs in APEC economies. These are the findings of a research report released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The findings of the report were presented at the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue held in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday.
The report, titled "The Impact of Visa Facilitation in APEC Economies," is produced by the UNWTO along with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The study finds that visa policies of APEC countries require an average of 63 percent of the world population to obtain a visa.
The report notes that successful collaboration and advances have been achieved among APEC countries to facilitate visas, including progressive approaches to implement new visa policies.
Within the tourist category, the report says, out of the 355 million tourists travelling to APEC destinations in 2013, an estimated 20 percent need to obtain a visa.
The report predicts that this figure is expected to rise to 21 percent during the 2014-2016 timeframe.
According to the report, if the APEC countries reform their visa regimes, they will gain between 38 and 57 million additional international tourist arrivals by 2016.
In monetary terms, current level of receipts generated tourists could increase by 9 to 14 percent and reach between $62 and $89 billion.
The report also estimates a total of 1.8 to 2.6 million jobs will be created as a consequence of the increase in tourist arrivals.
"At a time when many world leaders are looking for solutions to address a fragile economic situation and widespread unemployment, travel and tourism offers concrete measures," says UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in the foreword to the report.
Presenting the report to the APEC high-level policy dialogue on travel facilitation in Bali, Indonesia, Secretary-General Rifai said that prioritising visa facilitation "can translate into significant socio-economic benefits in terms of income and jobs generated by the growth of tourism demand."
The Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia, Mari Elka Pangestu, hosted the meeting. The minister highlighted the importance of tourism as a vehicle of job creation, economic growth and development in Asia Pacific. Minister Pangestu added that this importance has been acknowledged by APEC leaders through the launch of the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative two years ago.
"The challenge now is to establish cooperation between officials working in tourism, finance, customs, immigration, security, transportation and airport authorities which are in different working groups. In 2013, through this High Level Policy Dialogue on Travel Facilitation held in Bali, for the fist time, there is an attempt of coordination across fora and we hope to end up with some action plans on visa and travel facilitation," Minister Pangestu pointed out.
The UNWTO previously released a report highlighting the need for less stringent visa requirements worldwide. The report, which was released in January, also emphasized that an electronic visa system was likewise important.
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