UN urges Australia to ease visa rules

19 July 2012


UN World Tourism Organisation secretary-general Taleb Rifai has urged Australia to relax its strict visa requirements for visitors from developing countries, saying it could help Australia boost tourism.

Rifai added that there was no evidence to show that tough entry conditions for foreign tourists were necessary for security related reasons. He urged Australia and other developed countries to ease their tight visitor visa rules.

"There is no evidence to establish that there are close and very strong links between visas and security issues," Rifai said in Melbourne. "It is not reasonable to still see long lines, very cumbersome, uneasy, complicated, lengthy, overpriced entry formalities all over the world, particularly facing nationals from countries that are rising and countries that are providing the base for future incoming tourists.

While Chinese and Indian visitors have provided the greatest annual growth to Australia's tourism numbers over the past decade, they still face many hurdles in order to receive a visa. Foreigners traveling to Australia for the first time must provide bank statements or other financial information, a letter from their employer showing their position and salary, length of employment and confirmation that they have been given time off work for the duration of their trip.

If visiting relatives or friends, a letter of invitation from the relative or friend in Australia may also be required.

While some have claimed the fall in tourism is due to the high Australian dollar, Rifai believes it is due to the difficult visa process.

"The cost is not the major factor here, it's the ease of reaching here, cost of travel and cost and complications of entry," said Rifai. "Cost is a very important element in competitiveness but it should not be too much of an obsession. Some of the most attractive destinations in the world are some of the most expensive destinations in the world as well."

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