Tourism ministers meet, hope to spur more travel to boost economies
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —Tourism ministers from G20 countries have made a formal declaration that they’ll seek to ease visa burdens to boost international travel and tourism, seen as a way to potentially add 5 million jobs and generate $206 million in tourism revenue by 2015, according to figures from the World Tourism Organization.
The recently adopted declaration encourages G20 countries to leverage new technologies to make travel “more accessible, convenient and more efficient without a diminution of national security.” It also encourages countries look into increasing cooperation on bilateral, regional and international travel facilitation regimes.
Tourism ministers from G20 countries met May 16 with Mexican President Felipe Calderón to talk about boosting tourism, with Calderón promising that he would deliver the message to the other G20 heads of state.
WTO research shows that, of the 656 million international tourists who visited G20 countries in 2011, 110 million needed a visa, while millions more were deterred from traveling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining a visa.
Areas of opportunity for facilitating travel include maximizing the use of information and communication technologies to improvevisa procedures, instituting electronic visa processing and establishing regional agreements for visa facilitation.
From the declaration:
“To ensure that tourism can play a key role in creating employment opportunities, both directly and indirectly through linkages to the local economy, raising national income, improving the balance of payments and boosting economic growth, priority should be given to facilitating travel and tourism.”
“UNWTO applauds the commitment of the G20 Ministers of Tourism to visa facilitation,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said after the meeting of G20 tourism ministers. “This Declaration is an extremely positive signal to the international community that we are moving ahead on this issue of vital importance to the tourism sector and the global economy.”
“Small steps towards visa facilitation can result in big economic benefits,” Rifai said, “By facilitating visas, the G20 countries stand to gain five million jobs at a time of rampant unemployment across the world. These are in addition to the hundreds of millions of direct and indirect jobs already being supported every day by the sector.”