By Staff writer
Introducing a worldwide e-visa programme among the issues that former Jumeirah chief will pursue
Dubai Holding’s head of tourism and hospitality, Gerald Lawless, has been elected chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) at its congress in Dallas.
In a recent interview with Arabian Business, the former CEO of Jumeirah Group said that he would be actively pursuing the issue of visa restrictions during his two-year tenure.
Lawless said visa restrictions are hindering countries from developing their tourism and argued that governments needed a more logical approach to visas, suggesting that a worldwide e-visa programme - supported by a very high level of security - would help boost tourism and related revenues.
“If you look at Schengen [the pan-Europe visa programme] or Esta [the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation programme used by the US] as it is today, you could say ‘why wouldn’t we get a global platform?’ If we do it with electronic ticketing for airlines, why can’t we do it with visas?” he said.
“The point we’re trying to get across is that tourism is a product, it’s an export. If a developing country wants to get European tourists, they know they’re not necessarily going to get reciprocal agreements from Europe for their country, but at the same time why not allow European citizens come to their country, because they need their business.”
Lawless said the WTTC is not purporting for reduced security measures, but argued it could be more efficient to have a common platform shared by governments globally.
“We’re trying to exchange security and at the same time have the benefit of facilitating travel,” he said. “Nobody is suggesting we have less security, in fact we think that our proposition would have more.
“We’re saying that we need an approach that would mean a very efficient, high security level of issuing visas would exist, but it would be on the same platform [across the world]. People could voluntarily subject themselves to this [and] give [their] data. Like the US’s ‘trusted traveller’, where you give all of your data and information and share it with the TSA [Transportation Security Administration], and you don’t have to line up in big queues. It’s all about security and facilitating travel.”
Lawless takes over from outgoing chairman, Dr. Michael Frenzel, who said he was delighted to welcome Lawless as WTTC chairman.
“Gerald has been an active Member of WTTC, responsible for bringing the Global Summit to Dubai in 2008 and serving on the executive committee and as a vice chairman. His commitment to WTTC’s Mission will be invaluable, as the organisation continues to drive recognition of travel and tourism’s social and economic impact amongst governments around the world,” he said.
Congratulations Mr. Lawless! Well deserved honour, over due . . .