World travel and tourism leaders aim to put reform of visa application processes on the agenda of G20 governments next month.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) will present evidence of the negative economic impact of high visa charges and slow processes to a meeting of G20 tourism ministers in Mexico in May.

The results of research, tailored to show the impact on economic growth and employment in each country, will then go to a full meeting of G20 leaders in June.

The G20 group comprises the heads of government and finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economies.

Industry leaders attending the WTTC summit in Tokyo backed the decision to make visa processing the prime focus of global lobbying as the industry seeks to address governments with one voice.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “The G20 gives us the opportunity to put freedom to travel on the table with the simple message that travel and tourism will directlycontribute 5% of global GDP this year. Every $1 spent on travel and tourism generates $3 in GDP.”

UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai described visa procedures in many countries as “stupid”. He said: “Governments have to protect borders, but do they have to do it this way? Illegal immigration is not connected to visas.

“For each G20 country we have produced a profile detailing what they are losing.”

South Africa tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said: “We need to establish tourism on the agenda of the G20. It is indefensible that this industry is not part of the G20 infrastructure.”

Scowsill added: “We will be briefing President Calderon of Mexico ahead of the G20.” The Mexican president will chair the G20 summit in June.

The UK inbound industry has consistently raised the cost of UK visas, the length of the application process and the lack of a common visa with the rest of Europe as major barriers to growth in inbound travel.