A range of activities have been carried out by 11 countries to allow foreign visitors enter any state member with only one ASEAN Common Tourist Visa.
The idea of a common visa is one of the top issues at the recent ASEAN Tourism Forum in Manila, Philippines, with the participation of tourism ministers from member countries.
In the immediate future, the implementation of a common visa can be initiated by applying to each pair of ASEAN members having the most common policy, such as Thailand – Cambodia, Vietnam – Laos. In fact, this is not a new proposition, as Vietnam has been the host country for tourism connections in downstream Mekong countries by sharing a visa to take advantage of the extra-tourist arrivals.
In 2013, at the first Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) tourism ministerial meeting held in Ho Chi Minh City, gathering representatives from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, the tourism industry leaders within the ACMECS welcomed this initiative and discussed a solution for the core cooperation issue – a common visa for the five countries to promote free travel.
In fact, the process of forming the ASEAN single visa system requires the identifying and harmonising of differences in views, policies and development levels, as well as visa fees, administrative procedures, security and benefit sharing of visas, in addition to the common tourism information system among member countries and the need for consistent and coordinated awareness among agencies within each country.
As a general economic sector with great potential, tourism is creating more than 12% of the GDP and tens of millions of direct and indirect jobs for the entire ASEAN. The application of a common visa system enables visa holders to travel freely among the countries in the block, along with e-visas and visa exemption expanding, is considered key measure to stimulate the development of tourism in particular and the economy in general of each country and ASEAN community, the third largest market in the world with a population of more than 600 million people.
Heading towards a single ASEAN tourism visa system is a good solution to facilitate the visa application process, thereby, driving visitors to stay longer and spend more on their journeys in order to facilitate tourist flow more regularly. At the same time, it would contribute to consolidating intra-regional cohesion and spreading mutual development for the benefit of each country and the interests of the ASEAN community.0