For the tourists and backpackers who like to explore multiple countries in Southeast Asia while on their holidays, travelling could be about to get significantly easier.
The former secretary general of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Dr Surin Pitsuwan, spoke about the possibility of implementing one super tourist visa that would allow entry to multiple countries in the region,according to Travel Pulse.
He was speaking at the recent Thailand Travel Mart event in Chiang Mai.
At the moment, tourists who want to travel throughout the region are tasked with juggling different entry requirements and length of stays, as well as lots of separate visa payments and pages taken up in their passports.
A streamlined approach to visas both allows ASEAN countries to share in tourism revenue and marketing, while simultaneously giving tourists more freedom and less bureaucracy to travel the region.
Dr Surin said of potential tourists: “they will come to Malaysia, but they will want to come to Phuket too. They come to Bali, but they would want to come to Chiang Mai too.”
“The pattern of consumption of tourism here, on the landscape of ASEAN, is going to change.”
A move like this could totally rejuvenate Southeast Asia’s tourism environment, and could encourage more foreigners to explore lesser known parts of the region. While countries like Thailand have no problem attracting tourists, emerging destinations like Laos, Myanmar and Brunei are likely to benefit from such a visa package.
Much like Europe has done with the Schengen Area — allowing foreigners with a Schengen tourist visa to travel through over 20 nations in the continent — ASEAN could replicate with a similar proposal.
Of course, such dramatic streamlining could take time in Southeast Asia as each country currently has such different requirements.
Dr Surin suggested an initial move could be to allow foreign tourists visiting Thailand an additional one-week ‘connecting’ visa to neighbours Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. He also touted the possibility of a two-country visa if two nations were able to come to agreement on the terms.
Could a multi-country tourist visa be a good thing for Southeast Asia?
Featured image by Jon Rawlinson and used under a Creative Commons licence