New visa rules will hit us hard - Winde

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iol travel aug 21 Alan Winde INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS File photo: Winde said tour operators in other countries, like South America, also had strict processes when travelling with children. Picture: David Ritchie

Johannesburg - Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde plans to petition Parliament to suspend the new visa regulations due to come into effect on October 1.

“I will be petitioning Parliament to urgently intervene in suspending these regulations until such time as a regulatory impact assessment has been completed and a plan put in place for (its) smooth implementation,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We have just 40 days left to stop these regulations from being implemented.”

Winde said he had received concerns from hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators in the province, and believed the new visa regulations could significantly damage tourism.

South Africa's new immigration regulations introduce a new visa regime. The regulations draw a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits.

They stipulate that visa applications need to be made by applicants in person, and those wanting to change the status of their visa can no longer do so in South Africa but at missions abroad.

Winde said tour operators in other countries, like South America, also had strict processes when travelling with children.

“Parents have to produce all the necessary documentation including birth certificates. However, the cost of translating the birth certificate into English in these countries is just over R1 000.

“In addition, it takes about two weeks in these countries to translate the documents. This is a problem that will be faced by all non-speaking English markets. This will hit us hard.”

Winde said South America was an important emerging source market and in 2012, South Africa welcomed close to 80 000 tourists from Brazil, up from 32 000 in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2012, tourist arrivals into South Africa from Argentina increased by 26.8 percent.

Tourism from China, one of South Africa's biggest trading partners, would be heavily affected, he said.

It was expected the visa regulations would cut Chinese travel to South Africa by 70 percent, said Winde.

“This is a market which has shown a 55 percent growth in visitor numbers to South Africa since 2009.”

Winde said South Africa's “international meetings economy” could take a “massive knock”.

“Organisers avoid destinations which incur additional costs for delegates, such as for biometrics,” he said.

“(The) industry has made it clear that new regulations will kill tourism, and with it, jobs and growth from the industry.” - Sapa

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