Monday, March 21, 2011
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is planning to adopt a single visa system enabling tourists to visit any of the group’s 10 member states on a single travel document. Following the lead of Europe’s Schengen single visa system, Jakarta-based ASEAN believes that a single tourist visa policy would enhance the tourism experience in the region, boosting arrivals to member states. “The plan is realistic, action oriented, attuned to the global realities and designed to ensure that the ASEAN region can continue to be a successful tourism destination,” said Thong Khon, Cambodia’s minister of tourism at the recent ASEAN ministerial meeting, held in Phnom Penh. Earlier this year, the group recently released its ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2011-2015. The plan is expected to promote the region as a single tourist destination, develop a set of ASEAN tourism standards with a single certification process, enable tourism employees to work in any ASEAN country, and create a single tourist visa policy. This final intention was confirmed this week by Eddy Krisneidi, an official at the Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat. The strategy also gained strong support from the so-called ‘Plus 3’ countries - China, Japan and South Korea. ASEAN is also moving towards the implementation of an open skies aviation policy, which is scheduled to come into force in 2015. A unified ASEAN aviation market means that airlines would be able to fly freely over the region, transporting passengers between member states without limits imposed by individual governments in terms of routes, frequencies, airlines or aircraft types. In tandem, the single tourist visa and open skies aviation policy would have the potential to greatly improve the region’s appeal as a tourist destination, offering the opportunity to significantly increase tourist arrival numbers from the 65 million achieved in 2010. The plans have some obstacles to overcome before being implemented however, not least the inclusion of Myanmar, and local cross-border disputes, including the situation between Cambodia and Thailand.