South Africa has emerged top tourism destination in Africa for countries perceived to be Most Open Country for Travel while Portugal turned up to rank as number one in the world on the list. Portugal does not have embassies in most African countries; while South Africa survived the odds and challenges on its controversial new visa regulations after tourist arrivals fell by six per cent earlier last year, with a loss of over 100,000 tourism related jobs, the biggest decline it has seen in six years.
The controversial visa required that all children under the age of 18 visiting and leaving South Africa need to be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate in addition to their passport and visa. Following that was a second requirement that tourists travelling from countries that require a visa have to appear in person during the visa application process to obtain a biometric visa. The changes were made to reduce South Africa’s vulnerability to security threat and came into effect in May last year.
These visa requirements have had a negative impact on tourist numbers to South Africa. The direct contribution, which reflects internal spending, of South African travel and tourism to GDP was R103.2bn (30% of total GDP) and the total contribution was R323.0bn (9.5% of GDP) in 2013. This shows the importance of the industry to the country. Changes that could affect this contribution should be carefully considered.
Portugal is considered the country with the most open travel policies, according to perceptions of more than 21,000 global citizens, this report may not have taken responses from travelers from Africa since Portugal has embassies and high commissions in less than 20 countries if Africa, a number that reflects less engagement on the continent.
According to an article by Deidre McPhillips, published on www.usnews.com, quoting data from the 2017 Best Countries rankings, Spain ranks No. 3 in terms of open travel policies. The Best Countries rankings are based on a survey of more than 21,000 global citizens. In the survey, respondents answered how closely they related 80 countries to the term “open travel policies.” Respondents were given no further specifications of the term, so interpretation of the phrase was left to survey respondents, who may have considered a country’s tourism industry along with immigration and refugee policies.
Portugal and the Netherlands, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of perceptions of open travel policies. More than 11 million tourists visited Portugal in 2016, up from 8 million in 2013, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Steady growth in tourism since 2011 has played an important role in helping the country recover from an economic crisis.
No. 5 Norway and No. 7 New Zealand are the only countries outside of the European Union to crack the top 10. After Brexit, a referendum vote to leave the EU and its open network of goods and people, the U.K. fell eight spots to No. 18.
While the U.S. passport has been touted as one of the most powerful in the world, the door doesn’t seem to swing both ways. The U.S. barely makes the top half in terms of perceptions of “open travel policies,” ranking No. 34, below South Africa, the Philippines, Japan and Peru.
The Trump administration continues to take actions to seal America’s borders more tightly, including the discontinuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the “Dreamers” program that protects those who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. New visa restrictions were put in place last week between the U.S. and Turkey, ranked No. 49 in perceptions of open travel policies, and there are reports that the same might happen between the U.S. and Russia, ranked No. 62.
Iran, Pakistan and Oman round out the bottom of the list.
These are the top 10 countries that are perceived to have the most open travel policies, according to 2017 Best Countries data:
Open Travel Policies Rank: 1
Best Countries Overall Rank: 24
Open Travel Policies Rank: 2
Best Countries Overall Rank: 11
Open Travel Policies Rank: 3
Best Countries Overall Rank: 19
Open Travel Policies Rank: 4
Best Countries Overall Rank: 13
Open Travel Policies Rank: 5
Best Countries Overall Rank: 10
Open Travel Policies Rank: 6
Best Countries Overall Rank: 16
Open Travel Policies Rank: 7
Best Countries Overall Rank: 14
Open Travel Policies Rank: 8
Best Countries Overall Rank: 17
Open Travel Policies Rank: 9
Best Countries Overall Rank: 6
Open Travel Policies Rank: 10
Best Countries Overall Rank: 12
By Renn Offor