Asian countries are losing millions of dollars in tourism revenue
because of bureaucratic and draconian visa and immigration
procedures, tourism experts say.
“If I was in Bangkok on business and had a few days to spare, I
couldn’t go to Burma for the weekend because it would be impossible
to get this amount of paperwork processed in an hour or so,” said
Australian citizen John King, managing director of Aviation &
Tourism Management Pty. Ltd.
King, among a panel of speakers at this month’s Boao Forum for
Asia held in Hong Kong, displayed his passport containing several
photographs of himself and three sheets of “official” A4-size
“Visas on demand are an important attribute of the change that
is happening in the world towards shorter-term travel decisions for
discretionary travel as people travel more often, and for shorter
periods,” he said. “So the presence of complicated bureaucratic
paperwork runs counter to a tendency that is developing in world
For a visa to visit Laos, less than an hour’s flight from
Bangkok, U.S. passport holders need to submit three applications
and six photographs. The application will take nine working days to
process and cost $50. The lengthy procedure makes spontaneous
travel decisions difficult.
Experts said that behind much of the bureaucracy is a mistrust
of “outsiders.” Some countries are only just beginning to embrace
the idea of global trade, let alone tourism, they said.
Toru Nakamura, chairman of the Japan Tourism Association, called
on regional governments to streamline their immigration process to
help boost the growth of Asia’s travel and tourism industry.
“We need the governments to simplify passenger travel,” he said.
“Governments should spend the money on infrastructure to make visa
issue and immigration as smooth and quick as possible.”
Geoffrey Lipman, World Travel Organisation special advisor to
the secretary general and former president of the World Travel and
Tourism Council, said he believes the challenge facing the industry
in the current climate of uncertainty is how to curb the expansion
of visas when security is a dominant concern.
The issue not only applies to developing nations in Asia, but
also to Europe and the United States.
“The way to deal with it is to insist on the most simplified and
straightforward of electronic and on-demand processes,” he said.
“And to try and hold the fort against the expansion of the visa