Is Asean a step closer to relaxing EU visa restrictions?
ANYBODY who has had the pleasure of applying for a visa will know the stresses and patience-testing that comes with it.
For members of Asean states wanting to travel to the European Union (EU), the process of obtaining a visa is laborious, lengthy and not always a guaranteed success.
However, the situation may well change with the Federation of Asean Travel Association (Fata) and the Asean Tourism Association (Aseanta) now pushing for visa-free travel for Asean citizens heading to EU countries.
During the Asean Tourism Forum 2018 in Chiang Mai over the weekend, the associations discussed plans to urge the EU to relax visa restrictions for Asean tourists, and reciprocate the same courtesy given to Europeans heading into Asean.
The two tourism boards will be working together but from different angles. The dual-pronged approach consists of Fata writing to the EU with negotiation terms, while Aseanta will be reaching out to Asian and European airlines and national tourism organizations on promoting niche areas in tourism that will appeal to Asian visitors and provide vital economic support to the local businesses in these lesser-known regions.
The thought behind the negotiations is to mirror the hassle-free regulations Asean imposes on members of the EU wanting to visit the tropical region.
Many nations outside Asean have also lessened visa regulations to boost international arrivals. Japan, for example, saw winning results from this in 2017 as they welcomed 28.6 million visitors, a 19.3 percent increase from 2016.
Taiwan has completely lifted any visa requirements for Filipino tourists, a move that has seen their tourism economy grow.
More than just getting the restriction loosened, however, Aseanta is working with European hotels and restaurants to encourage the availability of halal (Muslim-friendly) food to boost Muslim tourism, which is a fast-growing sector.
The urgency for sanctions to be relieved is down to a more frequent amount of disposable income being gained by those in Asean states. Millennials are also discovering a passion for travel and want unique experiences, further driving the tourism economy.
These negotiations have come at a crucial time whereby Asean travelers could heavily contribute to the EU tourism economy if visa regulations are loosened, or EU could risk losing valuable tourism.