Smart Visas refer to safe, secure and sustainable solutions that promote mobility, maximize the use of technology, and expand programs that facilitate travel while removing process inefficiencies caused by arduous visa requirements. As a result of Smart Visa policies, more data is collected and shared across borders, creating enhanced security, efficiencies that reduce government spending and a better customer experience.
“In 2012, the UN World Tourism Organization reported that more than one billion people traveled outside their borders – a tremendous catalyst for global commerce and new jobs,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton Worldwide. “We are here at the World Economic Forum to tackle complex and challenging economic, social, environmental and political issues. Enabling greater international travel is the low-hanging fruit that can create significant economic growth and employment.”
“Smart governments are thinking about international travel and tourism as trade, and they are doing everything they can to remove barriers and be more strategic in addressing visas and other access issues that discourage people from traveling and doing business,” said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International. “While we recognize that security remains a top concern, we call on the world leaders here at Davos to be visionary about a future world of interconnected markets where moving travelers more easily will allow more people to see the world and result in 2 billion world travelers in the next decade.”
Many countries are recognizing the economic benefits of international travel and tourism and making secure and convenient travel a policy priority, including Turkey, which has more than doubled international visitation in a decade by providing visas on arrival; China, which has implemented visa-free travel for three days to Beijing for 45 countries; Russia, which is encouraging visa-free travel to and from the European Union; and Australia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been utilizing electronic visas, where the process is on-line and takes minutes, not days or weeks. The ASEAN nations are moving to a common regional visa to promote economic development.
Last year, President Obama announced the development of a national travel and tourism policy. Since then, the United States has made significant progress, with an increase in international arrivals as the visa waiver program was expanded to Taiwan and wait times for in-person interviews, most notably in China, Brazil, and Mexico, were brought down to under one week.
“We applaud those governments who are taking visionary approaches to facilitating travel, enhancing economies and providing employment opportunities worldwide. We view the private sector and Forum leaders as powerful partners to ensure progress continues so that global visa and entry policies are augmenting and enhancing the free-flow of goods, services, and people,” said Nassetta and Sorenson.
Globally, at $6.3 trillion in 2011, or 9.1% of total worldwide GDP, travel and tourism contributes more to world economies than some of the largest manufacturing sectors, including automotive and chemicals. The industry directly employs 98 million people, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR) is a leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA with more than 3,700 properties in 74 countries and territories and reported revenues of over $12 billion in fiscal year 2011. The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands, including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Bulgari, EDITION, Renaissance, Gaylord Hotels, Autograph Collection, AC Hotels by Marriott, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Vacation Club, Grand Residences by Marriott, and The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club. There are approximately 300,000 employees at headquarters, managed and franchised properties. Marriott is consistently recognized as a top employer and for its superior business operations, which it conducts based on five core values: put people first, pursue excellence, embrace change, act with integrity, and serve our world.
For more information or reservations, please visit our website at www.marriott.com, and for the latest company news, visit www.marriottnewscenter.com.
About Hilton Worldwide
Hilton Worldwide is a leading global hospitality company, spanning the lodging sector from luxurious full-service hotels and resorts to extended-stay suites and mid-priced hotels. For 93 years, Hilton Worldwide has offered business and leisure travelers the finest in accommodations, service, amenities and value. The company is dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences across its global brands. Its brands are comprised of more than 3,900 hotels and timeshare properties, with 650,000 rooms in 90 countries and territories and include Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages the world-class guest reward program Hilton HHonors®. Visit www.hiltonworldwide.com for more information and connect with Hilton Worldwide at www.facebook.com/hiltonworldwide, www.twitter.com/hiltonworldwide, www.youtube.com/hiltonworldwide,www.flickr.com/hiltonworldwide and www.linkedin.com/company/hilton-worldwide.