The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) says in a recent press release available HERE that Europe was the most visited region in the world in 2012, particularly Central and Eastern Europe regions. According to the UNWTO, Europe got as much as 535 million tourists which is good news as tourism is one of the engines that may still draw positive economic and social change. Asia and the Pacific regions also scored well ranking in second place.
But again, as the IMF recently put it: no collapse, no relapse, no relax. The UNWTO sees increased capacity for tourism in Europe despite economic severe conditions, but it stresses the need for countries to relax immigration restrictions, that is to say that visas act as money and travel deterrent to some tourists that may instead opt for some other regions.
Well this is an interesting optics to say the least. While newly EU member countries as Romania or Bulgaria are struggling to enter the free-zone Schengen but haven’t got so far a clear answer, why would the EU relax its immigration policies for tourism? Is it feasible, can it really appeal to some countries as the perfect way to boost a crisis economy?
As Central and Eastern Europe has ranked as the top region with the highest tourism rate increase, it is questionable whether a region in itself the gateway to Western Europe and to Schengen would see it appropriate to relax visas restrictions. The UNWTO fishes in troubled political mayhem. With France and Italy recently saying that the Schengen agreement needs readjustment or Denmark that re-opened its border checks control in some areas and the whole discussion about re-opening border checks proves that uncontrolled immigration has a lot to account for in the EU.
Tourism in itself may be a potential source of illegal immigration which has made incessantly the headlines in many EU countries. If the EU are particularly aware and fear free movement of persons from within its borders (see UK’s alarmist headlines on potential waves of Romanians and Bulgarians ahead of 2014) then we might actually expect that the EU would not embrace the UNWTO call for relaxation in visas for tourism purposes.
What about the sustainable tourism and climate change agenda, how does this meet advocacy for tourism growth?