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Europe may only attract a minority of the world’s tourists for the first time in history as the continent loses its share of global tourist arrivals in a few years time.
Europe’s current visa regimes are citied as a contributory factor in the decline.
Complicated visa processes, processing times and the associated costs are deterring many legitimate leisure and business tourists, according to the European Travel Commission (ETC).
An improved visa regime in 10 priority source markets would boost arrivals by 70%, research for the ETC shows.
The study covered China, Russia, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Belarus, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Thailand, which together account for more than half (53%) of “visa-constrained” visitors to European destinations.
Further preliminary findings indicate that a 4% growth in tourism demand can be achieved by bringing visa processes in line with current ‘best practice’.
This involves lower fees, simpler paperwork, streamlined processes and better information sharing between airlines and visa issuing bodies.
Increasing validity periods of existing visas and offering easier renewal processes for those who have successfully applied for a visa in the past would also have a positive impact.
Offering new types of visa that are easier for travellers to obtain, such as e-visas or visas on arrival, would further reduce the burden on potential travellers, leading to 8% higher average annual growth.
Offering a visa waiver to travellers from trusted source markets would result in an increase in demand of over 16% a year, according to the results of the study to be released at World Travel Market tomorrow (Tuesday).
Adopting such policies could generate between 3 million and 19 million additional visitors a year for Europe by 2020, creating thousands of new jobs without compromising security or risking any “undesirable” immigration.
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