New Visa regulations hitting SA hard

By Staff Writer
The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has noted an overall drop in tourism since the introduction of the new Visa regulations in June 2014.
 
“The first two quarters of 2014 also saw growth (5.6%) but this changed abruptly in the third quarter of 2014 (the in-person visa application requirement came into effect in June 2014). Since then, there has been a systematic decline in tourist arrivals, particularly out of the BRIC source markets,” noted SATSA.
 
Mavuso Msimang, chairman of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said: “Overwhelming evidence from multiple reliable sources points to the disastrous impact these ill thought-out and draconian requirements are having on the tourism industry (see overleaf for details). We cannot afford to waste another moment. The economy has already suffered devastating losses as a result and thousands of jobs are on the line. We urge the Deputy President to scrap these requirements before any more damage is done and to set up inclusive structures to look at workable alternatives that balance security with economic growth.”
 
The statistics
 
Between September and December 2014, tourist arrivals from Brazil dropped by 37%, tourists from China decreased 46.9%, while Indian tourism to South African dropped by 14.4%. This decline continued into 2015. According to data for June 2015 released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the figures were as follows:
 
  • Overseas arrivals dropped by 13% from 130 410 to 113 689.
  • The number of US tourists decreased by 9% to 29 269 from 26 503.
  • UK tourist to South Africa declined by 8% from 19 371 to 17 897.
  • Tourism from Australia decreased by 11% to 7 682 from 8 654.
  • Indian tourism to South Africa declined by 25% from 8 785 to 6 577.
  • Tourism from the Netherlands saw a decline of 3.5% to 4 256 from 4 411.
  • Chinese tourists to South Africa dropped by 27% to 4 167 from 5 823.
  • France was the only country to see an increase, with tourists to South Africa increasing by one percent to 5 112 from 5 064.
 
“The data released by Statistics SA confirm the projected drop in international tourist arrivals anticipated since the introduction of the new visa requirements in South Africa on 1 June 2015. These findings are an indication of the current and imminent pressure the local tourism industry is under to avoid job losses and the large-scale loss of revenue related to this economic shortfall,” said Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism.
 
“Based on Stats SA data for January to April 2015, this means that South Africa will lose 138 000 foreign air passengers per annum due to the regulations. However, as only 24% of foreign travellers enter/exit South Africa by air, when one includes all ports of entry (air, land and sea), it is likely to lose 578 000 foreign tourists per annum due to the regulations.
 
“According to SA Tourism, the average spend per passenger is R13 000, which amounts to R7.51bn revenue lost to the country,” noted SATSA.
 
Furthermore, data from the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has revealed that June, July and August saw a 44% decline in the number of child tourists under the age of 18 travelling in and out of South Africa compared to 2014.
 
“These statistics reveal that an urgent response is required from government, as well as the tourism industry to stall any further decline and prevent job losses,” said Duminy.
 
The new Visa regulations
 
The new Visa regulations regarding child travellers were introduced in June 2015 and require a child to travel with an unabridged birth certificate. Both parents have to be travelling with the child, if not, you are required to have an affidavit from the parent that is not with the child, saying that the other parent has permission to leave the country alone with the child. (Click here for more on the new child Visa regulations.)
 
However, the visa regulations not only have the effect of making it difficult for people to illegally leave the country with a child, without the parents’ or legal guardians’ permission, but also make it difficult for large groups of children, leaving on a legitimate trip, to leave the country.
 
“School sports tours are affected by the unabridged birth certificate regulations, as are business people and academics who may have previously been frequent visitors to SA. The impact itself would take some time to rectify, even with adjustments to the regulations,” explained Duminy.
 
“While the new visa regulations were intended to prevent child trafficking, the unintentional spin-off effect has been dramatic. According to a report on the Impact of Home Affairs Changes News Digest, July 2015, countries that collect in-person biometrics either have a significant number of visa centres in China and India or have moved to rendering biometric data on arrival. The UK and the US have 12 and five visa application centres in India respectively,” noted Duminy.
 
According to Duminy, the new Visa regulations should be scrapped. “Any regulations which have such a measurably negative effect should be scrapped.”
 
Duminy added: “The benefits of tourism are fundamental to transformation in the community. According to the Economic Value of Tourism report, an estimated 37 551 people were permanently and 15 130 temporarily employed in the tourism industry in Cape Town in 2013. These jobs are [now] placed directly at risk.
 
“Estimations relating to new birth certificate requirements suggest that R9.7bn in gross domestic product (GDP) could be lost to the South African economy and 21 100 jobs countrywide and, as an outcome of the biometric visa requirements, a further R36.7bn in GDP and 80 100 jobs could potentially be lost,” highlighted Duminy.
 
According to Duminy, “improvements could be made to the visa applications process, including online visa and visa on arrival applications processing while finding a balance between better border control and prevention of child trafficking.”
 
“It should be mentioned that South Africa remains a destination of choice, Cape Town Tourism is confident that the city will continue to attract global travellers despite the regulations, with its world-class attractions and many forthcoming events. The devaluation of the rand is also worth noting as favourable to international visitors,” said Duminy.

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