Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International call for 'smart visa' policies to boost tourism

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Barack obama

Global hotel operators Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have told decision makers at the World Economic Forum in Davos that 'smart visas' are needed to boost tourism
Global hotel operators Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have told decision makers at the World Economic Forum in Davos that 'smart visas' are needed to boost tourism
Global hotel operators Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have called on business and travel industry leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos to back so-called 'smart visa' policies to boost tourism.

The World Economic Forum, a Swiss not-for-profit organisation, has today kicked off its annual gathering of Government decision makers and business leaders in the mountain resort of Davos in Switzerland.

Both hospitality groups were present and told the audience that world leaders needed to do more to stimulate travel, spur on economic development and create new jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries.

Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott International, claimed 'smart visas' were the best way of doing all three.

“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,” she said.

Smart visas

The pair of hotel giants have outlined what they think 'smart visa' policies should do:

  • Promote mobility
  • Maximise technology
  • Expand programmes which facilitate travel
  • Remove visa requirement inefficiencies 
  • Collect more data which is shared across borders
  • Enhance security
  • Reduce Government spending
  • Enhance the customer experience

“While we recognise 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 travellers more easily will allow more people to see the world and result in two billion world travellers in the next decade," Sorenson added.

Christopher Nassetta, president and chief executive of Hilton Worldwide, added: "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."

Major deterrent

The tourist visa situation in the UK has been a big topic of discussion among hospitality and tourism leaders in the last month.

It formed the basis for a number of talks and debates at the inaugural British Hospitality Association (BHA) Hospitality & Tourism Summit last June when the message was that complications and difficulties in obtaining a visa to visit the UK was acting as a 'major deterrent'​ to potential visitors.

At the end of last year, Home Secretary Theresa May told the Policy Exchange think tank she wanted to relax the policy for Chinese tourists in particular;​ China is one of the biggest current growth markets for tourists.

However in Davos, the pair of companies pointed to action by the US President Barack Obama as a blueprint for other governments.

"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,” the pair declared.

Obama last year announced a new national travel and tourism policy which has cut the waiting times for in-person interviews for tourist visas to less than one week.

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