Europe’s visa regimes are among the most restrictive in the world according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which estimated that 74% of the global population would have required a visa to travel to Europe in 2015. This number largely accounts for visitors from long-haul source markets which are amongst the most valuable as they tend to stay longer and spend more per day than the average visitor.
The European Travel Commission (ETC) has published a report quantifying the potential impacts of visa facilitation for Chinese travelers on European tourism. Presently China is one of the long-haul source markets for which visa-free access to the EU, including the Schengen area, is not available despite the incremental rise in Chinese travel demand to Europe over the last ten years. China is the world’s largest outbound travel market, both in terms of generated arrivals and total travel expenditure. To assess the potential impact of visa facilitation, the report first undertakes an analysis of the main benefits and types of visa facilitation policy and then applies them to travel patterns from China to EU 27 (excluding UK) destinations.
The results show that visa liberalization would undoubtedly increase demand from one of the most lucrative source markets and contribute to European GDP and employment growth. The analysis estimates that a full visa liberalization scenario between China and the EU is likely to increase the average growth of Chinese arrivals from 7% to 18% per year between 2018-2023. This in turn would generate additional inbound spending of €12.5bn per annum and raise total employment level by nearly 1%, creating 237,000 additional jobs, including 120,000 directly within the travel and tourism sector. This would contribute to an increase of Europe’s GDP by 1%.
To avoid a greater loss of opportunities, especially from long-haul source markets such as China, it is imperative that the EU’s visa policies are modernized and enhanced to further facilitate travel from key markets. Mr. Robert Andrzejczyk, ETC Vice-President and Coordinator of ETC’s visa advocacy work, stated that “liberalization of Europe´s visa regimes for Chinese travelers is essential for the continent to maximize its share of the benefit from the growth of the Chinese travel market in the decades ahead. Now more than ever Europe needs to secure further employment; investing in visa liberalization targeted at key markets can achieve this aim efficiently and effectively“.