UN Tourism ranks East Africa among most open regions for travellers

Business
By Brian Ngugi | Apr 20, 2024

 

UN Tourism secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili at a past event. [Courtesy, UN Tourism]

East Africa has been ranked among the most open sub-regions in the world in terms visa openness as global travel recovers to pre-pandemic levels, a new report by UN Tourism shows.

The United Nation’s tourism agency in its Visa Openness Report 2023 said East Africa stands out as the most welcoming subregion globally particularly due to its visa-on-arrival policy, which allows 46 per cent of the travellers of the world to obtain a visa upon entry, and its eVisa system, which is available to 36 per cent of international tourists.

“Visa-on-arrival policies are comparatively common in East Africa (46 per cent), South Asia (38 per cent), South-East Asia (36 per cent) and West Africa (32 per cent). eVisa programmes are prevalent in West and East Africa (36 per cent) and South Asia (31 per cent), while North Africa, Central America, Northern and Western Europe do not offer eVisas,” UN Tourism said in the report.

Kenya and Rwanda last year removed Visa requirements for all African travels, decisions that were lauded as a step towards opening African borders. Kenya has also launched a new eVisa platform for travellers from elsewhere.

As part of a new visa regime, travellers from countries that require the document to enter Kenya are now required to have an electronic visa (e-visa) before boarding a plane.

Overall, the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions have seen improvement in destinations’ openness.

“Destinations’ openness to international travel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels following the lifting of COVID-19 related travel restrictions. As a consequence of the pandemic, new forms of travel facilitation, such as “nomadic visas”, also appeared,” the report said.

Ease of accessing visa is important to promoting tourism growth. According to the report, fewer people worldwide now require a traditional visa to travel, falling from 77 per cent in 2008 to 59 per cent in 2018, and then to 47 per cent in 2023.

At the same time, 21 per cent of the world population do not need any form of visa, an increase from 17 per cent in 2008 and 20 per cent in 2018 while 14 per cent of the world population can apply for visa on arrival, an increase from 6 per cent in 2008 and 15 per cent in 2018.

About 18 per cent of the world population can apply for eVisas, an increase from 3 per cent in 2013 and 7 per cent in 2018.

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