A survey conducted by Skyscanner, a premier global travel site, indicated that some 81% of Asian citizens asked would favour a single Asean visa that would allow them to freely visit other member countries.Â
Out of 7000 respondents from Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, India and China, 87 percent also supported a visa reciprocity system between Asean countries.Â
It is widely believed that a shared Asean visa would have a positive impact on the local tourism business in participating countries. Indeed, over half of respondents in a local survey conducted on Phuket in 2010 were in support of a regional visa that would attract more tourists to the island.Â
Earlier this year, Le Luong Minh, the Asean Secretary-General emphasised the importance of a single visa to Southeast Asia's tourism sector. He told the Thai press that Asean member states would continue to promote an Asean common visa, highlighting the tourism benefits that resulted when Thailand and Cambodia agreed to implement a single visa agreement last year.
Earlier this year, city authorities in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City also urged the national government to join Thailand and Cambodia's single visa scheme in order to encourage more tourists to visit the Mekong region. In the past, the chief executive officer of Brunei's Tourism Board, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh, has also shown strong support for such an approach.
The whole idea for tourism to work is that it must be easy for travellers, he said. So this [single Asean visa] is designed for the ease of travellers, because we want them to come to Southeast Asia. Â
However, Sheikh Jamaluddin also acknowledged that while discussions over a single Asean visa had been in the pipeline for at least a decade, some Asean members would be more likely to apply restrictions such as only allowing visitors from countries with which they have diplomatic ties. Following the release of Skyscanner's figures, officials from the Thai Foreign Ministry seemed to share the same concerns.
It's up to the leaders of Asean, and I don't know when they would bring up the issue for discussion, as there seems to be so many complications, said one Thai ministry official in the national press.
The results of the Skyscanner survey also revealed that Thai travellers supported more visa-free destinations globally in order to increase the ease of travel. Japan scrapped visas for Thai travellers earlier this year and 90 percent of respondents were in Âfavour of the Thai government establishing visa-free agreements with more countries around the world.