The launch of the Kaza visa for Zambia and Zimbabwe is very positive news for the two countries, which share a world icon in Victoria Falls.
The univisa, which was rolled out on November 28, will save tourists time and money as only one visa is now needed to visit both countries.
The visa is expected to boost the flow of tourists between Zimbabwe and Zambia, particularly across the Victoria Falls border.
It should also create interest from new markets.
The univisa follows the introduction of an electronic visa application system by the Zimbabwe Immigration Department, with both measures making for a more user-friendly experience.
Tourism responds positively to user-friendly welcoming initiatives.
The univisa has come at a good time, with arrivals set to grow rapidly in the next two to five years, as the new Victoria Falls International Airport opens in August 2015, and will be handling long-haul wide-body jets.
While the univisa process is working well so far, local tourism industries need to be telling the source markets very loudly about this new process and its benefits.
I recently crossed the Victoria Falls Bridge border into Zimbabwe with foreign guests who had bought their univisas at Livingstone Airport in Zambia, and the process went smoothly.
On the Zimbabwe side of the border, there is a separate counter for univisas, which speeds up the process for all travellers, whilst on the Zambian side the officials indicated that this service was in the pipeline, pending resources.
The concept of this visa has been on the table for some years, and it was initially known as the SADC Visa project, but it seemed to have stalled.
However, after a very successful co-hosting of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly in August 2013, the Zimbabwean and Zambian ministers decided to push ahead with it.
The visa, which costs US$50, lasts for up to 30 days as long as the visitor remains within Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The univisa also covers those visiting Botswana for day trips through the Kazungula borders.
Citizens of 40 countries are eligible for the univisa, or Kaza visa, including tourists from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States.
The visa is available in Zambia at Livingstone’s Harry Mwaanga Airport, Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda Airport, the Victoria Falls land border and the Kazungula land border.
In Zimbabwe the univisa can be obtained at Harare Airport, Victoria Falls Airport, Victoria Falls land border and the Kazungula land border.
Assuming this pilot initiative is successful, the univisa will be extended to include Angola, Botswana and Namibia.
Further down the track, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland could be included, before Tanzania, Seychelles, Mauritius, Malawi, Madagascar, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo come on board.
A common visa will make the region a more competitive tourist destination, with added convenience and reduced costs encouraging more visitation and longer stays.