The 19th ASEAN Summit to be held in Bali on November 17 is expected to discuss the proposed common ASEAN visa system as part of the ASEAN connectivity plan toward establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015.

ASEAN foreign ministers at their 44th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Bali recently agreed to study the common visa proposal further, said Widya Rahmanto, an official of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Cooperation Directorate General.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, which holds the current ASEAN Chair, hoped the upcoming ASEAN Summit would agree on the proposed common visa so an official study could be started in 2012, he said.

According to Widya, the ASEAN common visa system is expected to have a positive impact on tourism in the region, because the sector is one of 11 sectors given priority in ASEAN`s scheme to accelerate liberalisation of its market.

An in-depth study on a common ASEAN visa is a must because there are many internal issues that must be addressed first, such as online visa system and coordination among relevant agencies of member countries, he said.

The common visa policy could be applied in stages, Widya said, emphasising that before ASEAN could adopt a common visa system for visitors from non-ASEAN countries, it must first agree on visa arrangements for its own peoples.

In line with "ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011-2015" adopted at the 14th Meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers held in Phnom Penh , Cambodia last January, ASEAN member countries have agreed to intensify the promotion of their tourist destinations within ASEAN.

The ATSP is expected to contribute to the overall goals of the ASEAN Community by 2015 through promotion of growth, integration and competitiveness of the tourism sector and at the same time deepen social and cultural understanding as well as facilitating travel into and within ASEAN.

Currently, ASEAN member countries, except Cambodia and Laos, apply a visa-free policy among themselves, particularly to boost intra-ASEAN tourism.

Last year ASEAN attracted more than 65 million visitors, posting a healthy 12 percent growth. Intra-ASEAN travel, meanwhile, continued to be a major share of tourists, making up 45 percent of total international arrivals.

Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. /.