UN says visa requirements easing worldwide to boost tourism

UN says visa requirements easing worldwide to boost tourism

MADRID — The number of tourists who require a visa before travelling is “at its lowest level ever,” as countries around the world continue to ease visa requirements, says the World Tourism Organization.

In 2015, 39 per cent of the world’s population could travel as tourists without obtaining a traditional visa before departure, the UN agency says in its latest Visa Openness Report. That compares with 23 per cent in 2008.

The report distinguishes between traditional visas and other types. It says 18 per cent of the world’s population, on average, could travel to a destination without any visa in 2015, while another 15 per cent could receive a visa on arrival and six per cent were able to obtain eVisas.

Canada ranked among the top 30 countries whose citizens were affected the least by visa restrictions in 2015.

The countries whose citizens had “the highest freedom to travel” were Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Singapore and the U.K., according to the report.

Visa requirements can deter travel, reducing the economic benefit of tourism, the report indicates.

“Travellers mainly see visas as a formality that imposes a cost,” it says. If getting a required visa is expensive or complicated, “potential travellers are simply deterred from making a particular journey or choose an alternative destination with less hassle.”

Facilitating tourism, the report suggests, is not at odds with addressing the world’s “current security challenges.”

“In fact, at a moment when safety and security are top of the agenda for all of us, we need to work closer together to promote a safe, secure and seamless travel environment by using the possibilities offered by technology and international co-operation in data sharing,” UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said.

Global Affairs Canada, the federal government department, does not compile a list of countries requiring Canadian tourists to obtain visas, spokesman Francois Lasalle said. However, information on visa requirements imposed by specific countries is available at travel.gc.ca.