Jun 16, 2013

ASEAN - ASEAN countries to adopt common smart visa scheme

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Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines joined forces to initiate a common smart visa system, in an effort to enhance tourism and foster economic growth in the region.

Ministers and tourism authorities from the four Asean countries gathered on June 5 at the 22nd World Economic Forum on East Asia taking place in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. At the event, the “Statement of Intent on Smart Visa” was signed by relevant government agencies to acknowledge the collaborative plan.

The common ‘Smart Visa’ scheme will be the first global implementation of its kind involving many countries.

The Smart Visa scheme is expected to boost growth of the national and regional tourism sectors in line with the social and economic integration of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

This initiative was built on the single visa programme for tourism travelling between Camdodia and Thailand, which was implemented on January 1, 2013. The effort would also benefit non-Asean nationals visiting the region.

“By recognizing the importance of the connectivity in tourism activities, the statement of intent expresses our desire to give a boost to the tourism sector by facilitating the movement of tourists across borders; by going towards a smart visa through adopting best practices; and maximizing the use of technology to reduce the inefficiencies of the traditional visa application process,” Philippine Department of Tourism secretary Ramon R Jimenez Jr said.

Apart from promoting tourism across the region, the Smart Visa is also expected to foster investments in the respective industry as well as job creation.

The Smart Visa is a digital paperless substitute for a traditional visa and it can be provided by travel agents or participating airline at the time of making a travel reservation. It can be obtained through an Internet portal or mobile devices.

The first smart visa was introduced by the Australian government in 1996 as part of fostering the Sydney 2000 Olympics when the government needed to process large volumes of visa applications during that period. It was called an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).

The success of the Australian smart visa system gave birth to similar initiatives in Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Cambodia, and most recently in Sri Lanka.

Thanya Kunakornpaiboonsiri

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