Malaysia is pursuing for the facilitation of single visa among Asean member countries to boost tourism in the region, which is forecast will receive about 30 per cent of the projected one billion tourists globally by 2010.
Malaysia has been busy making a compelling argument for a single entry visa to all Asean member countries. “The Association of Asean Tour Agencies (ASTA) has agreed to pursue the matter to make it more conducive for tourists, especially long-haul travellers who come to this part of the world,” the country’s Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan told the Bernama news agency.
He added, “We are pushing for a single entry visa for tourists to Asean countries. A tourist visiting a member state will not need to apply for multiple visas to visit countries within the grouping.”
He said the issue had been raised with his counterpart in Singapore while Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia were keen on the ‘one destination, three or four countries’ strategy to boost regional tourism. Malaysia was also looking at clinching such an agreement with Myanmar, which did not see eye-to-eye on the matter at present, he said.
Malaysia is using its leadership in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Joint Tourism development cluster programme as its platform to push the proposal.
Official figures up to June show Malaysia has exceeded by 60 per cent its projected total tourist of 20 million for this year with revenue amounting to $11.3 billion, he added.
While talk of such a scheme has been around for years, and there have been many false starts, there now are signs of more concrete progress towards the plan that is an essential first step if other developments, such as the Pan-Asian Highway system, are to fulfil their full potential.
In fact, across Asia, there are now three such schemes under consideration – the ‘Five Countries, One Destination’ initiative adopted by Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, an Asean proposal, and a third by SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, that groups India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan.
On top of that, South Korea has even proposed a similar visa system to allow free travel between Korea, Japan and China, although the obstacles to that make Asean negotiations appear simple.