Johannesburg, 01 June 2015 - The tourism industry has slammed the new visa regulations, which stipulate that foreigners wanting to visit South Africa must apply for visas in person, at SA embassies abroad.
WESTERN CAPE – The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) on Friday welcomed an announcement by the national department of tourism that it plans to review new visa regulations.
The Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, recently announced that the department was considering a review of the regulations and the need for unabridged birth certificates for tourists travelling to South Africa.
“SACCI welcomes the statement made by the Minister of Tourism that South Africa’s government is reviewing its new travel rules for minors after signs that they are already hurting the key tourist sector,” said SACCI spokesperson Peggy Drodskie in a statement.
Drodskie added that SACCI supported the objectives of the new rules, and condemned child trafficking, and stakeholders should be engaged in seeking alternative ways and means of addressing the problem.
“Tourism is a fast growing industry in South Africa, with arrival numbers spiralling since the 2010 Soccer World Cup. SACCI believes that it is important to nurture and grow this trend,” she said.
Western Cape MEC for Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, said on Friday that it was important to tackle these issues appropriately.
Just hours before the visa regulations were implemented on June 1, earlier this week, Winde had raised concerns about the impact the regulations would have on the tourism industry, saying that the regulations would impact negatively on the tourism industry.
Winde had shared how a major hotel had already expected operations to be down by over 20 000 bed nights, and commented on the fact that Air China postponed direct flights to South Africa gave insight into the negative consequences for the country’s tourism industry.
With the country being one week in the implementation of the visa regulations, Winde said “we are seeing the very real and detrimental consequences of these regulations”.
The South African Services Association, he said, had predicted that there would be a 90% decline in traffic from major markets like Russia, China and India.
Winde said, had it not been for the Red Tape Reduction Unit, a tour group from India that was scheduled to arrive in the Western Cape within the next two weeks would have cancelled their trip, based on a a bungle after the new regulations requiring unabridged birth certificates were implemented.
He shared how the tour operator from India had contacted him after one of the minors travelling in the group had not been granted a visa. “Our Red Tape Reduction Unit was in touch with the tour operator as well as with officials from the SA consular mission in India,” Winde said.
“In India, the details of both parents are endorsed in a child’s passport, clearly rendering the passport an ‘equivalent document’ to an unabridged birth certificate. We communicated this to the tour operator and the officials, sending them the relevant piece of legislation. We were happy to receive word that the visa had been granted, enabling the trip to go ahead.”
Winde highlighted how the incident emphasised the importance of ensuring that all national government officials were trained on the latest legislation. “There is no room for misinterpretation; it only adds to the inconvenience,” he said. “In addition, the Department of Home Affairs must ensure that they have the capacity to process these applications efficiently. If these laws are to remain in place, Home Affairs needs to urgently up its game.”
Drodskie said: “Over the past several months, SACCI received reports of the potential negative impact of the new rules, with cancellations being received even before implementation, of overseas travel agents not making reservations for travel to and in South Africa and airlines reconsidering flight schedules to South Africa.”
“SACCI now looks forward to participating in the review process announced by Honourable Minister Hanekom and trusts that this labour intensive sector with its with a supply chain that links across sectors, will continue pay its significant role in the South African economy,” said Drodskie.