Ministers of Tourism from the world over gathered in London for the 6th UNWTO/WTM [UN World Tourism Organization/World Travel Market] Ministers’ Summit to discuss principally matters relating to visas and to air connectivity under the banner “Open Borders and Open Skies – Breaking Barriers to Travel and Tourism.”
“Tourism remains a volatile industry and needs understanding of its complexity by everyone,” Minister Alain St.Ange of the Seychelles said to the press after the 6th UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit in London. The 2012 Ministers’ Summit concluded that complicated visas processes and policies that limit air connectivity continue to present major barriers to the growth of travel and tourism.
It was also the general understanding that Ministers and representatives from major tour operators and airlines present were calling for increased intra-governmental cooperation and support from the highest levels of government to break such barriers.
The UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit concluded that the coordination between tourism and other governmental portfolios – home affairs, finance, transport, or infrastructure – remained key to addressing current obstacles to stronger tourism growth. It was the general consensus by the over 70 Tourism Ministers attending the 2012 Summit that facilitating visa procedures and promoting policies that improve air capacity is only possible if there is political commitment at the highest level, and if there was cooperation across cabinet.
According to UNWTO research, between 2010 and 2012 over 40 countries made significant changes to their visa policies, facilitating travel from “visa required” to “visa on arrival,” “eVisa,” or “no visa.” Yet, visa facilitation is still a major obstacle to tourism development.
Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism & Culture said when he took the floor at the 2012 Summit that Seychelles needed to point out to the world that it remained as a country “friends of all and enemies of none” as it implements a unilateral NO VISA POLICY. The Seychelles Minister also reminded everyone at the Ministers’ Summit that tourism remained a people industry and that everyone needed to remain conscious that tourism was not a factory.
The Minister highlighted an incident he had personally witnessed at Gatwick Airport as he was boarding a flight to Shannon in Ireland. “A lady traveler was obliged to open her suitcase to remove some two kilos only because airlines do not speak the same language. One allows checked luggage with twenty kilos and the other one wanted only fourteen kilos. One speaks about moving to the new century and to be environmentally friendly, and the other obliges the printing of boarding cards going as far as penalizing the not printing with a euro sixty penalty for reissue by themselves. The time to speak the same language is needed if we are to be people friendly,” Minister St.Ange said.
Mr. Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary-General, said on his part: “Our main message is clear: lengthy, expensive, and complicated visa procedures and policies which limit the development of air travel are obstacles to the continued expansion of travel and tourism. Removing them will stimulate demand, increase exports, grow the economy, and create jobs.”
Mrs. Fiona Jeffery, Reed Travel Exhibitions Director, World Travel Market, said: “2012 is a breakthrough year for international tourism with at least one billion arrivals expected, but there is still room for us to grow. Addressing issues such as visas and air taxes will help, and it appears the global condemnation of the UK’s APD will not go away.”
The UNWTO Secretary-General concluded: “This is the sixth UNWTO Ministers Summit at WTM, and the event continues to go from strength to strength. Our message remains that tourism is a vitally important sector on a global scale, and we want to facilitate its continued growth for the good of all.”
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