Confusion over visa processing huge hurdle for SA tourism | Fin24
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Confusion over visa processing huge hurdle for SA tourism

Sep 02 2016 12:40
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town - South Africa’s capacity to process visas poses a serious challenge to tourism – especially from India and Russia, said South African Tourism (SAT) on Friday.

Briefing the portfolio committee on tourism, the body said there appears to be a lack of understanding of the visa requirements for visiting South Africa. In addition, the inter-ministerial committee’s recommendation that the requirement for unabridged birth certificates be amended, has not been implemented yet.

“This affects markets, such as the United States and Canada,” said SAT chief marketing officer Margie Whitehouse.

Earlier this year, tourism minister Derek Hanekom, acknowledged that South African tourism has paid a heavy price for implementing the new visa regulations, including the requirement that an unabridged birth certificate for minors under 18 who are travelling to or from SA was a requirement.

An inter-ministerial committee was appointed which recommended that the strict visa regulations be scrapped, their recommendations have not been implemented yet.  

READ: Visa rules force SA language schools to shut down

During question time, the DA’s James Vos said he had heard that up to 40 prospective visitors from the United States were hampered from visiting South Africa, due to the confusion around visas and unabridged birth certificates. “This has a very negative impact on our ability to be a destination of choice,” he said.

According to SAT’s figures, foreign tourism into South Africa grew by 18.7% to 2.7 million people compared to 2015.

Foreign direct expenditure totalled R22.5bn – 38% more than the previous year. In addition, 16% more foreign visitors toured more than one province in South Africa.

The region that delivered the most foreign visitors was the African land, followed by Asia and Australasia, the Americas, Europe and Africa-air region.

READ: Hanekom: SA paying heavy price for new visa rules

South Africa’s tourism growth is ahead of our main competitors Australia and Thailand, especially with regard to tourists from Asia, Australasia and Europe.

Domestic tourist trips also increased – up by close to 60% compared to the previous year. Expenditure by domestic tourists amounted to R8.8bn, which represents a 90.1% increase from 2015.

But Greg Krumbock, DA spokesperson for tourism, challenged SAT’s, saying they should have compared the domestic tourism figures with 2014, which would have given a truer reflection of the growth in tourism.

The tourism sector of SA grew by 0.2% in 2014 before falling by 6.8% in 2015, as a result of the strict visa regulations. This has been the biggest decline ever experienced in the South African tourism industry in the last six years.

However, since the visa regulations have been relaxed the negative effects have been somewhat reversed, which helped the country's tourism sector to recover.

ALSO READ: Brexit's effect on SA tourism

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