E-visas: the way forward?

2012-08-27 08:34
“In an era of globalisation‚ technology offers many opportunities to enhance security‚ while facilitating travel and tourism,” Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said at the 2012 G20 tourism meeting held in Mexico

From a business perspective an e-visa system it would not only increase tourism volume for South Africa but also help create much needed job opportunities – a very real problem in our country.

At the heart of the matter, this innovation would also mean easier and possibly less expensive opportunities to visit and explore new countries and cultures.

There is no denying that implementing an e-visa system, whether on a global or regional basis faces bureaucratic hurdles and would require a substantial investment to begin with – but the long term benefits for you the traveller and the country as a whole means the end justifies the means.

South African Tourism has thrown its weight behind preliminary research by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) presented at the most recent G20 meeting, in support of a proposed e-visa between the G20 countries.

Forecasts suggest that tourism will experience sustained development in the coming years, reaching one billion international travellers in 2012 and 1.8 billion in 2030.

Passenger numbers in Africa are expected to increase from 68 million in 2010 to 150 million in 2030. This translates into an annular growth rate of 5% for aviation’s direct contribution to gross domestic product on the continent.  According to the WTTC research, in 2011, 656 million international tourists visited G20 countries. Of these, an estimated 109 million tourists originated from source markets which required a visa. This represents 17% of the total international tourism market to the G20.

This is but the the tip of the WTTC research in support of e-visa.

While there are many types of visas the study focused primarily on leisure and business travel. Excluded from the analysis were entry visas for work, residency or students. A key part of the analysis took into consideration non-visa programmes which have functions similar to those of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program in the USA.

Tourism development in the G20 limited by visa regulations...

Besides the program already underway in the United States, a number of programs across the globe were analysed and are detailed below – but the findings are conclusive.
- 17% of tourists will face visa requirements to enter G20 countries in 2013-2015

- Visa facilitation opportunities between G20 countries have the potential to gain between 20 million (low impact) and 112 million (high impact) additional international tourists by 2015.

- This would generate between US$38 billion and US$206 billion additional tourism receipts (exports) by 2015.

- Additional visitor spending would directly create between 560,000 and 3.1 million additional jobs in the tourism sector by 2015.

- Total job creation (including indirect and induced impacts) would reach between 940,000 and 5.1 million additional jobs by 2015.


The varies programs and outcomes considered are detailed below - including how they either negatively or positively impacted travel and tourism:


UK visa policy for Taiwan (Province of China) and South Africa
The UK imposed visa requirements on South Africans in March of 2009. This resulted in a decline of visitors between 2009 to 2011 by nearly 35% (13% per year).  Conversely, in March 2009 the UK began allowing tourists from Taiwan (Province Of China) staying less than six months to enter the UK visa free. Arrivals increased sharply in 2009 (39.6%).

India visa on arrival program
Beginning in January 2010, India instituted a visa on arrival program for 11 countries (New Zealand, Finland, Luxembourg, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam). Despite the visa only allowing for a single entry in a 60 days period, arrivals from these 11 countries increased 10.6%.

USA Visa Waiver Program Expansion (2008)
In November 2008, the USA expanded its visa waiver program to include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and the Republic of Korea – this easier access resulted in a 41% growth in arrivals from these counties.

Australia ETA Program
Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) program was introduced in 1996 in anticipation of the need to handle the large number of visitors projected for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.  A total of 21 source markets were examined, indicating an increase in arrivals to Australia from the relevant markets of 8.9% per year ranging from 1.7% (Japan and Italy) to 19.4% (Finland) over the respective three year periods.

USA Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA
As mentioned earlier and of particular interest in the case studies was the ESTA program initiated in the USA in January 2009. This is an important case because the ESTA program, which was put in place with the goal of increasing security, amounted to a more restrictive policy.

Prior to 2009, citizens of visa waiver program countries were able to enter the USA visa free. After ESTA was introduced, tourists wishing to enter the USA through the visa. Waiver program were required to apply for the electronic authorization at least 72 hours prior to travel. Once the traveller is authorized, the ESTA authorization is valid for two years. Arrivals from ESTA eligible countries (excluding the 7 added in November 2008 noted in the case studies above) dropped 9.5% in 2009. However, the decline was mostly attributable to the global economy and there was no statistically significant indication that the drop could be explained by the change in policy.

The ESTA program raised further consternation as it began to charge a fee of US$14 (about R123 at R8.8/$) to obtain the authorization beginning in September 2010. This move raised even more criticism of the ESTA program and represented yet a more restrictive policy. Arrivals from visa waiver countries rose in 2011 continuing to rebound from the recession.

Summary of G20 Visa Requirements

- In 2011, 656 million international tourists visited the G20 countries. Of these, an estimated 110 million tourists originated from source

- Markets requiring a visa. This represents 17% of the total international tourism market to the G20.

- In percentage terms, Turkey, Mexico, and Australia have the most open visa policies towards their current source markets with just 3%, 4%, and 4% of tourists requiring visas in 2011.

- Significant market opportunity exists for the G20 to pursue improvements in visa facilitation.

- Improvements in visa processes would affect travel from over one third of the current visitors market for India, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, and the USA.


An e-visa could add an additional 20 million to 112 million international tourists would generate between US$38 billion and US$206 billion additional international tourism receipts for G20 countries by 2015. Total job creation (including indirect and induced impacts) from the additional tourism spending in the G20 economies could reach between 940,000 and 5.1 million by 2015.

Top ten estimated percentages of  international tourists requiring visas - period 2013 - 2015

Brazil - 18,3

Russia - 30,4

India - 89,6

South Africa - 6,4

China - 10,6

Saudi Arabia - 55,4

United States - 37,7

United Kingdom - 5,2

Japan - 21,0

Germany - 12,4

 

* G20 Countries:
Argentina
Australia
Brazil
China
France
Germany
India
Indonesia
Italy
Japan
Mexico
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Spain*
South Africa
Republic of Korea
Turkey
United Kingdom (UK)
United States of America (USA)
European Union (EU)**

*Spain is a permanent G20 invitee and also included in the report.

 

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