In accordance with a proposal few years ago, ASEAN member states are finding their way towards creation of visa-free travel in the region for all ASEAN nationals. According to official reports, a common ASEAN visa for citizens not belonging to the ASEAN countries is also under way. This is being done in a bid to promote tourism and business. The immigration officials of the ASEAN region have been bestowed with this task. However, it will take some time before these come into play as there are concerns amongst ASEAN member countries about security issues, implementation processes and differences in legal processes.
In an exclusive interview to a leading travel magazine, Soraya Homchuen, Director of TAT or the Tourism Authority of Thailand in the Mumbai office said that some smaller programs like Cambodia-Thailand single visa have already come into existence and are reportedly very successful. There is likelihood that other ASEAN countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia may also be interested in such schemes.
There are some problems that can prove to be a stumbling block for the implementation of the Common Visa project. These hurdles include infrastructure, connectivity and airport capacity. Homchuen said that the planned increase in the tourist count included large number of domestic tourist count within the ASEAN region as well as neighboring nations like India and China. The other major concerns revolved around education, management, security, law enforcement, training programs, environmental and ecological management.
India has a Look East policy in place which supports ASEAN connectivity by providing logistics and road travel connectivity. This will permit easy tourist flow from Northeast India to ASEAN Member states. Homchuen stated that India’s TAT offices at Delhi and Mumbai were engaged in taking PR activities like creating awareness about tourist attractions in ASEAN countries through brochures and organizing educational trips, with Thailand as the centre stage. Some other activities would be held with the budget from ASEAN Secretariat.