Cape Town - New visa requirements will have a “devastating impact” on South Africa's booming tourism, the DA warned on Monday.
“(The) new immigration regulations are tying up our tourism industry in unnecessary red tape, and placing an unnecessary burden on the growth of this job-creating sector,” Democratic Alliance MP James Vos said in a statement.
The implementation of new biometric visa requirements for foreigners was already proving a serious obstacle for people wanting to visit the country.
“Visitors are now required to apply for their visas in person, which is an additional and unnecessary travel expense for those who do not live near South African embassies, consulates, and visa centres, or, worse, live in countries without these facilities,” he said.
Home affairs published the new regulations last month.
Last week, Western Cape premier Helen Zille said the new laws threatened the province's film, business, and leisure tourism industries. She has threatened to take the national government to court over the matter.
Vos called on Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom to urgently brief Parliament's tourism portfolio committee on what steps his department planned to take to overcome “the potentially devastating impact” of the new regulations.
“The minister of tourism cannot let this go unanswered. He must now step in and protect the jobs that tourism creates in South Africa,” Vos said.
According to Statistics SA, tourism employs almost 600,000 South Africans, and contributes almost R90 billion to the country's GDP.
Vos said most countries were trying to relax requirements for tourist visas.
“It seems the ANC have missed this trend completely,” he said.
Just over a month ago, before the new regulations were announced, the tourism department announced that international tourist arrivals in South Africa were at an all-time high, and poised to break through the 10 million mark.
“South Africa's international tourist arrivals grew at an annual average growth rate of 7.4 percent between 2011 and 2013, well above the global average of 4.5 percent during this period,” it said in a statement at the time.