HARARE, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) — The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has ranked Zimbabwe as one of the top 30 countries that have made significant efforts to reduce travel restrictions and allow free movement of tourists in the past seven years.
In its 2015 Visa Openness Report released last week, the 157-member UNWTO ranked Zimbabwe number 29 out of the top 54 member countries deemed to have made significant progress in relaxing tourist restrictions, news agency New Ziana reported Tuesday.
“Overall, 54 destinations significantly facilitated travel for citizens of 30 or more countries by changing their visa policies from visa required to eVisa, visa on arrival, or no visa required,” the UNWTO said.
It said the 54 destinations took a total of 6,357 individual measures, representing 86 percent of all improvements made between 2010 and 2015.
“This demonstrates that destinations, when reviewing their visa policies, tend to thoroughly review and introduce changes,”the UN agency said.
According to the report, Zimbabwe implemented a total of 117 reforms that made it easy for tourists to visit the country during the period.
Mozambique, which was at number seven with 189 improvements was the top ranked African country with Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Mali, Mauritania, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania also among top African reformers.
The UNTWO said the reforms led to an improvement to the world’s average openness in the period.
“Prioritizing travel facilitation is central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism. We are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world think likewise” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.
The UNWTO, he said, hoped that increasing openness will help the number of international tourist arrivals grow to around 1.8 billion annually by 2030.
Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi has repeatedly called for visa relaxation to boost arrivals and reach a 5-billion-U.S. dollar tourism industry by 2020 from the current 1 billion.
In 2014, Zimbabwe and China signed an agreement on mutual exemption of visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and service passports and the tourism minister is continuing to push for Chinese nationals to be allowed to get visa on entry to boost their arrivals in Zimbabwe.
Currently, Chinese nationals are required to get a Zimbabwean visa or visa permission before travel.