Cape Town -

New immigration laws could cost South Africa R6.8 billion a year in loss of tourism, one organisation says.

Several court cases are already pending as a result of the new regulations which came into effect on May 26.

Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said the regulations presented “an insidious threat” to film, leisure and business tourism, as well as to foreign investment.

“In the past week, my office has received numerous complaints from industry stakeholders whose businesses are already suffering losses,” he said.

Despite the potentially widespread bearing on film and tourism businesses, at no stage were the regulations published for public comment.

“I have asked my red tape unit to investigate whether these regulations are constitutional and to consult with our counterparts at the… departments of Tourism and Home Affairs to urgently find a way forward that will mitigate their negative impact,” Winde said.

The Board of Airline Representatives of SA said that from July 1, South Africa would be the only country in the world that required children under 18 to produce an unabridged birth certificate in addition to a passport when entering, departing or in transit through South Africa.

Airlines would be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of the documents.

“Air travellers and travel bookers in South Africa and overseas just don’t know about this requirement and why would they? A passport is the only globally recognised travel document,” said chief executive June Crawford.

According to the board, tourist arrivals could be negatively affected by up to 20 percent – the average number of passengers travelling with children.

“Based on 2013 numbers, 536 000 foreign visitors could be denied travel, and conservatively, the lost income to South Africa from these high-value visitors could be over R6.8bn annually, inevitably leading to job losses in the South African tourism sector.”

The purpose of the unabridged birth certificate requirement was to prove the relationship between parent and child to deter child trafficking.

The airline industry has met Home Affairs officials to request the implementation of the policy be delayed.

Enver Duminy, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism, said the regulations would damage tourism.

“The new regulations put the administrative burden directly on the visitor and is likely to act as a significant barrier to travellers who are spoilt for choice and pinched for time. It is especially damaging to the development of emerging markets where complex visa requirements mean that applications can only be processed in a handful of places.”

Theresa Szejwallo, managing director for The Travel Corporation, which represents several travel agencies including Trafalgar and Insight Vacations, was also worried about the effect of the changes.

“While we support the reasons behind the new immigration rules I don’t believe that Home Affairs has allowed the industry enough time to process the implications, engage with clients and be fully ready to implement these changes. Unless this happens in the very near future the effects on travel and tourism could be drastic.”

Rob Baker, chief executive of South Africa Travel Online, said the winter holidays, and cruises specifically, would be hit by the policy changes. “I’m pretty sure that if the implementation date doesn’t get moved, there are going to be problems with those who’ve booked to travel internationally during the school holidays,” he said.

The Home Affairs Department did not respond to requests for comment


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Cape Argus