As major ASEAN tourism associations meet, some have called for easing visa requirements for travellers from ASEAN countries to Europe.

During the recent ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2018 in Chiang Mai, the Federation of Asean Travel Associations (FATA) called on the European Union (EU) to offer visa-free travel for ASEAN citizens, reciprocating the ability for travellers from Europe to enter ASEAN member states without one.

Hamzah Rahmat, President of FATA, said he plans to move on a visa agreement between Asean and Europe, allowing visa-free access. "Most European nationals are able to travel in Asean without a visa, so (ASEAN national) should get the same treatment," he said.

Rahmat stated the region contributes a large number of outbound travellers globally. Several countries such as Japan have already relaxed their visa restrictions and enjoy a lot more visitors from the region.

Citizens of ASEAN member countries do have varying degree of travel freedom. Singaporeans enjoy visa-free travel to 173 countries, making a Singaporean passport one of the most powerful in the world according to a Passport Index report for 2017. While Singaporeans can enjoy visa-free access to most EU states, that priviledge is not shared among other ASEAN citizens from countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia.

Travellers from most ASEAN countries often have to take on visa application process which could take months for travel to EU member states. On the other side, travellers from EU member states such as Germany or France usually can stay visa-free at any one ASEAN country between 15 to 90 days provided a traveller can give proof of their outbound travel from the country.

While any effort to ease the restrictions for travellers to enjoy a trip to Europe would be great, the ASEAN states also still need to address topics such as the proposed single-ASEAN visa and coordinating aviation/travel policies among member states. A change to the current policies may not be immediately in the horizon, but this could be further discussed in diplomatic talks between ASEAN states and European countries as the ASEAN economies


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