Troublesome procedures, delays and expenses in obtaining visas, and double taxation of aircraft emissions, were handicaps to the growth of tourism, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said when he and his counterparts from other Group of 20 (G20) countries met in Mexico last week.
He said that 656 million travellers, or 67 percent of all international arrivals, visited G20 countries last year, spending about $830 billion (R6.9 trillion) and generating 78 million jobs. Of these visitors, 109 million, or 17 percent, needed a visa.
Pointing out that simplifying and speeding up the procedures for obtaining visas would stimulate wealth creation and employment in the countries visited, Van Schalkwyk said research suggested that the development and facilitation of visa processes could muster up to 112 million additional international tourists by 2015, increase earnings from tourism by as much as $206bn and create more than 5 million jobs in the next three years.
He said the majority of ministers supported the concept of electronic visas “because it is an opportunity to enhance security and facilitate travel”.
This is in line with recommendations by the International Air Transport Association, which has repeatedly urged governments to make more use of sophisticated electronic and computerised systems to check the identity and records of airline passengers and their baggage for security reasons, replacing more cumbersome procedures.
Van Schalkwyk recently persuaded the Department of Home Affairs to speed up the granting of visas to visitors from India – a fellow member of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of countries – after complaints of delays that discouraged visits to this country.
In a statement after the meeting, delegates pointed out that tourism accounted for as much as 9 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and was one of the fastest-growing economic activities.