In a world shaped by global networks, where homogenous cultures and mixed values prevail, we still grapple with the visa conundrum.

The report announced by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) highlights that 2024 is anticipated to be a record year for tourism. The data also strengthens the forecast of a bright year for Türkiye in this regard.

However, while the outlook for incoming tourism seems promising, the situation is not as bright on the outgoing front, primarily due to one major hurdle: VISA!

Despite high inflation and exchange rates in 2023 and the first quarter of this year, interest in overseas travel packages did not wane. It's worth noting that domestic tourist activities are no longer cheap. Moreover, a seaside holiday abroad can be almost more affordable than in Antalya or Bodrum.

Agencies selling outgoing package tours have long stated that this market hasn't even reached 10 percent of the country's population yet. There's always potential for growth in this sector. However, when it comes to tourism plans, public strategic investment doesn't seem to focus on this area.

While there are various reasons for going abroad, from a tourism perspective, it's undeniable that it broadens the vision of the country's people, creates employment in Anatolian agencies, increases the volume of work for guides, and brings foreign currency back to the country through on-site sales abroad, among many other positive aspects.

Indeed, traveling abroad is a consequence of globalization and the dynamics of a free world. With the support of technology, you're now part of a large network that you can't shut yourself off from, making the world a large village with no access barriers.

Yet, the biggest barrier remains the visa process, which is becoming increasingly difficult. It's not just tourist travels; obtaining visas for business, education, and many other purposes is becoming more challenging. Years of experience in the tourism industry, businesspeople, and investors are unable to secure visas. Or they might only get a visa for a few days or months. Visa applications are being rejected for very simple reasons. Recently, the visa application of the owner of a major hotel chain was denied. It's almost laughable not to grant a visa to a respected businessperson who has traveled the world for years and is of retirement age.

Lately, visa policies in Europe and USA, especially the Schengen area, are influencing travel demands and preferences. Touristic trips are shifting towards visa-free geographies. If this continues, there might be an increased interest in Asia-Pacific countries. The lack of appointment availability, appointments scheduled months in advance, and the lengthy, burdensome/costly visa procedures are demotivating Turkish citizens. Frankly, temporary measures like "visa on arrival" seem nothing more than attempts to sweeten the deal but don't go far enough.

The negotiation process conducted with Türkiye to control the migration wave is burying the visa issue deep within politics. The issue goes beyond border protection, highlighting cultural differences and deepening divides. The strict stance shown towards Türkiye during the EU membership process is becoming more apparent with the migration issue, and the West, which seems relatively distant from Türkiye's conservative government, punishing even secular travelers, contradicts the spirit of modernity that nourishes and originates from its own existence.

There's a saying in Turkish, "One judges others by oneself." If Europe sees Türkiye as it sees those Turks who, despite carrying European passports, are left to alienate and marginalize, then it should reconsider and look inside Türkiye once more.

If Europe wants to see Türkiye as at least an ally in certain matters, it should help Türkiye escape this visa spiral. Europe needs to prove its genuine commitment to its liberating roots, first and foremost to itself.