Travelling and adventures have been among the main needs of mankind. Over the years, civilization has changed from travelling by foot, horses, camels to travelling by ships, trains, cars and finally airplanes. In the past, people travelled without a visa, for example, until the early 20th century Western Europeans moved from one country to another without visas and passports; these became necessary as travel documents only in the 20th century, after World War I.
If in the previous century a traveller required a stamp in a passport, in the 21st century the trend is changing toward an electronic visa. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 1980 the travelling categories were as follows: ‘traditional visa’ (75%), ‘no visa required’ (20%), and ‘visa on arrival’ (5%). In 2018 the category ‘no visa required’ remained approximately at the same level — 21% whereas the level of ‘visa on arrival’ category increased up to 3 times. In 2018 every 10th traveller received an electronic visa, as a result, the level of the ‘traditional visa’ category decreased to 53%.
The increase in the e-visa numbers in the 21st century is not surprising in that the traditional visa issue procedure is tedious for travellers and costly for states. The number of electronic visas out of the total number of issued visas is on the increase, despite obstacles such as the adaptation of the visa issue procedure and creation of informative web-sites. According to the World Tourism Organization data, during 2012–2018 the use of e-visa increased 5 times.
Tourism in Azerbaijan
Around 25 countries worldwide issue e-visas to foreign visitors. However, each country has its own e-visa application procedure. The e-visa system was established in Azerbaijan in 2016, and over 3 years it has produced satisfactory results. For example, in order to apply for an e-visa to Azerbaijan a visitor needs to follow 3 steps: to fill in an application form on the website — evisa.gov.az, pay for a visa and finally download it. Owing to this easy procedure, the number of the e-visas out of the total number of issued visas to Azerbaijan has increased dramatically. According to the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in 2018 2.849 million foreigners entered Azerbaijan. This statistic includes all traveler categories: with ‘traditional visa’, ‘no visa required’, and ‘e-visa’ (about 24% of the visitors). In 2019, 29.2% of foreigners used an electronic visa, which indicated a 36% increase out of the total number (925 827) of issued e-visas. These statistics have promising implications for the whole world.
Tourism and covid 19
It is noteworthy that tourism is one of the sectors that has suffered most due to the pandemic. Restrictions on travel introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to hit the global tourism hard, said UNWTO in its report in October. For the first eight months of 2020 the tourism industry showed a 70% fall in the international arrivals. According to the newest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the international arrivals plunged 81% in July and 79% in August, traditionally the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season. The drop until August represents 700 million fewer arrivals compared to the same period in 2019 and translates into a loss of US$ 730 billion in export revenues from the international tourism. This is more than eight times the loss experienced back during the 2009 global economic and financial crisis. OECD now estimates that in 2020 the international tourism numbers will fall by around 80%.
Tourism after covid
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed human behavior and preferences in general, and in the tourism industry in particular. In the future, after the pandemic ends, we can expect a surge in the international tourism numbers. It is predictable that the simplicity of the e-visa procedure will be one of the major triggers in traveler attraction.