Currently, tourists visiting Southern Africa must apply for separate visas for each country, each with its own visa regime. For some, this acts a deterrent for multi-country travel in the region. It is for this reason that the development of a common visa, deemed a UNIVISA, was endorsed by SADC Heads of State in 1998. While there have been some obstacles to implementation, significant momentum is now building towards the UNIVISA. Central to the UNIVISA strategy is taking a phased approach. The first step is the creation of a pilot initiative through which a common visa will be created for Zambia and Zimbabwe. One of the reasons they were selected as pilot countries relates to their role as cohosts of the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly.
This pilot initiative is being developed in close cooperation with the KAZA TFCA and RETOSA and is being supported by the World Bank and the German Development Bank KfW. Assuming that this pilot is successful, a common visa can then be established among all five KAZA TFCA countries. By eliminating the need for tourists to obtain multiple visas, cross-border travel will become easier and less costly. This should provide a major boost to tourism within the world’s largest TFCA. Next, a SADC UNIVISA pilot can be initiated. This will likely involve the additional incorporation of South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. A successful result will encourage expansion to the full list of 15 SADC countries. By undertaking the UNIVISA initiative, the region will become a more competitive tourism destination. The added convenience and reduced costs will encourage more visitation and longer stays. This will undoubtedly broaden and enrich the tourism experience while providing important economic benefits to the region’s diverse host countries and communities.