At the close of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue in Nusa Dua, Bali, on connectivity among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia's Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Mari Elka Pangestu, and UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai informed that the High Level Policy Dialogue on Travel Facilitation was convened on the initiative of Indonesia through the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.
The Forum discussed four main focal points, namely: Visa Facilitation, Advance Passenger Information, Trusted Travel Program and Tourist Friendly Airports.
The recommendations on visa facilitation, together with other 19 recommendations from Indonesia that were earlier discussed in the Senior Officials Meeting on 1 -2 October, will be included in the main Agenda of the APEC leaders' Summit Meeting. Some 97 percent of Indonesia's 20 recommendations had already been agreed upon by APEC economic members.
The easing of visa formalities to boost travel and tourism is not a new concept, said Minister Pangestu. UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization) in a report compiled together with WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) entitled : “The Impact of Visa Facilitation in APEC Economies' noted that easing of visa formalities will result in additional 57 million tourists to the region, making an aggregate income from the tourism sector of between US$ 62-89 billion to APEC members' economies. It will also add between 1.8 - 2.6 million jobs in tourism to the year 2016.
So far, the APEC Business Travel Card for businessmen is already in operation providing ease of travel for APEC businesses, so that businessmen no longer need to go through the same visa procedures over and again. This type of visa is now recommended to be similarly applied for non-businesses. Nonetheless, until then, normal procedures are still in force.
In 2011, APEC members had also agreed on the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative, Discussions on detailed implementation are in progress and meetings are being held not only among APEC tourism officials, but also among finance, customs, immigration, security, communications and airport authorities' officials who are involved in different working groups.
At national level, Indonesia continues to increase the number of countries that are extended Visa on Arrival facilities. A sapphire system is also available for trusted travellers to increase ease, comfort and speed in travel through airports. Also in progress are the biometric passport and visa application online system.
Regionally in ASEAN, Indonesia has proven its commitment to increasing visa facilitation. Before the end of 2013 ASEAN members intend to extend the single ASEAN visa for countries outside the region who wish to travel to a number of ASEAN countries.
UNWTO Recommendations to APEC
In an earlier session, UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, said that tourist potential in the APEC region is indeed very significant but has not yet been utilized effectively.
"(UNWTO) has undertaken a three year study on tourism in the APEC region, and as a result we have made 6 recommendations" said Rifai. These are:
1. Boost Information Systems
APEC member governments should boost tourism publicity through online tourism sites. These sites should be user friendly and make available clear information to tourists on relevant destinations.
2. Facilitate Travel Procedures
APEC countries are recommended to shorten bureaucratic procedures on travel, that include shortening the time taken for application and additional ease of travel for tourists.
3. Offer more destination countries
APEC should offer more destination countries for specific tourist categories, which also entails the easing of travel formalities.
4. Use of Modern Technology
Modern Technology should be used, in particular in providing e-visas. If, in the past decade, airlines could exchange paper tickets with e-tickets, this should also be possible for visas.
5. Increase agreements globally and among regions.
6. Increase open travel system
At the moment, many countries in the world have signed bilateral agreements, including provision of free visa.
(Source : www.indonesia.travel special report)
Copyright © 2014 Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia. All Rights Reserved