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Ease visa norms for tourists: Taleb Rifai

Special Correspondent
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Tourism has the potential to contribute significantly to economies: Taleb Rifai

Taleb Rifai
Taleb Rifai

United National World Tourism Organisation secretary general Taleb Rifai has urged the countries to revisit their existing visa regime and ease norms and procedures for facilitating free movement of tourists to their countries.

Tourism, with its resources and revenues, has the potential to contribute significantly to economies and no country can ignore the contribution that the sector could make to its progress. The sector holds potential to create one job for every 43 visas granted and the number was much lower in developing countries like India.

The main challenge was to address concerns like tourists being put to inconvenience of standing in queues and long waits for obtaining visas in spite of strong growth in their numbers. “Reports suggest that one out of every seven is venturing out of their place on a global scale. Countries that are complicating their visa norms are hurting themselves,” he said.

Mr. Rifai was replying to queries by reporters on Saturday on the sidelines of the UNWTO conference on sustainable tourism development and the joint meetings of the UNWTO Commissioners. “There are difficulties, with varying degrees of intensity, in every country at a time when tourism is emerging as a ‘human right’,” he said. The event witnessed participation of delegates from 21 countries, eight UNWTO affiliate members and two regional organisations besides industry. Asked about the recent reports that said there was steep drop in tourist traffic, he said there was no such development witnessed and “figures speak for themselves”. Violence and issues related to safety were not confined to any one country and people are confronted with complaints of such incidents everywhere. “Violence and crime is not about tourism, it concerns all of us as people,” he said.

Minister of State for Tourism K. Chiranjeevi said Visa on arrival facility was extended to 11 countries at present and 17 more were in the pipeline, of which six were almost finalised. The facility was being offered in the airports in four metros and the department was in negotiations with the External Affairs Ministry to extend it to five more airports including Hyderabad. Asked whether the 17 countries would reciprocate the gesture for tourists from India visiting their countries, he said the Visa on arrival was being extended in view of the interests of inbound tourists. “No matter whether they reciprocate or not,” he said. Tourism Department secretary Parvez Dewan and others also spoke.

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