The social and economic benefits of tourism could be strengthened if governments collaborated more closely with each other and their respective private sectors, over visas, taxation, aviation agreements and marketing, said the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), on Monday.

According to the UNWTO, the tourism industry had shown an upward trend of arrivals and, across the world, remained the only sector unaffected by economic downturns, inflation and soaring fuel prices in the last few years.

Despite global uncertainty, tourism has performed well during the first eight months of 2011. International arrivals were up 4.5 per cent compared with the same period last year, said Taelb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary General.

However, tourism ministers of countries present at the fifth UNTWO and World Travel Market Ministers' (WTM) summit sought to draw governments' attention to a number of details associated with the international market. Industry officials said that visa regulations in various countries was one such complication, which had a rather unfavorable impact on the global flow of travelers. It was suggested that e-visas and liberalization of rules could be a solution.

Similarly, tourism ministers acknowledged that their ministries could work in co-operation with relevant departments to minimize the impact of travel advisories and taxation on tourism.

According to Rifai, the tourism sector will continue to grow over the coming years and the number of international tourists in 2012 should be in excess of one billion. He added that the sector could reap maximum benefits if the proper partnerships were sought.

The growth so far this year is astonishing, but if the sector could work more closely together, even more benefits could emerge, and this will not require any significant additional investment, he added.