Single visa for South East Asia boosted by Thai chairmanship

Thailand and the Philippines are to join together to push for the much anticipated single visa covering the 10 member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations which they believe will boost tourism in the zone.

In 2007 almost 30 million tourists from outside Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines and Thailand, visited the area and there has been plans for years to offer a single visa that would allow people to visit more than one without separate documentation.

The two lead countries have now confirmed that they will jointly push for the common visa when Bangkok assumes the ASEAN chairmanship in July. As Thailand is the acknowledged leader in tourism in the area it is anticipated holding the chairmanship will give the issue extra clout.

The move will not only boost holiday lettings but attract more property investment too, according to the industry. There has been talk of having a single zone visa for years but it has been difficult to get all 10 nations to agree.

'A common visa will give property investors the opportunity to pick a base within the zone and then use it to travel to other countries in the region, says property consultants David Stanley Redfern.

But others are more sceptical. 'I think it is a case of believing it when it actually happens. It will mean Burma agreeing to let travellers in with visas issued by other authorities and even the most optimistic must realise this is a long way off if recent events surrounding relief aid show,' said Bridie Chalmers of Travel Counselling in London.