Published on : Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Addressing the tourism ministers of the G20 countries (the “T20”) in London, David Scowsill called on those present to introduce a “customer-service ethic” into their visa and border processes in order to reap the potential economic and social benefits of Travel & Tourism:
“Encouraging more Governments to make it easier for people to cross borders has been proven to create jobs and encourage economic growth that it is why it has been at the heart of the efforts right across our industry for so long. Better approaches to visas are a win-win, not just for us in the Travel & Tourism sector but for those concerned with trade, development and, importantly, security.”
“Travellers who wish to visit a country for a short amount of time, helping to sustain jobs and economic growth, should be encouraged and welcomed.”
This economic importance of “visa facilitation” is underscored by two major pieces of research jointly undertaken by WTTC and UNTWO in the last 18 months. Research published at last year’s T20 in Mexico showed that five million additional jobs could be gained from improved visa processes in G20 countries; while research undertaken for last month’s APEC High Level Meeting in Indonesia showed that there is a potential gain in international tourism arrivals of up to 57 million tourists by 2016. This would in turn generate up to $89 billion in visitor exports and 1.4 million additional jobs.
Addressing the T20 today, Scowsill continued: “I am delighted to note that since the G20 World Leaders addressed this issue in Mexico last year, we have seen positive visa changes in Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Mexico, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, the UK, and the USA, among others. This is an issue which has been taken up across our industry and where we are seeing real change.
“We need to build on this momentum. I call upon all countries which are members of the G20 to assess their visa policies and procedures, to identify where the opportunities for improvement lie and to develop a cross-government approach to ensure change happens.”
Scowsill identified five basic principles for Governments to consider as they review their visa policies:
1. Travellers are customers not criminals. A customer service ethic needs to penetrate through all parts of the process
2. Technology IS the answer. Investment in smart systems which can enhance security and improve customer service, a win-win situation
3. Industry can be a facilitator. Travel & Tourism companies know their customers, and they have developed the expertise and solutions to manage them
4. Small steps are good. Incremental change covering specific sectors or countries can be refined and scaled up and should be heralded when accomplished
5. Transparency and timeliness are key. Processes need to be clear and non- bureaucratic and timeframes must be definitive and reasonable