Cape Town - South African travellers could soon be exempt from having to apply for a visa to travel to Europe, as Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba entered into negotiations with European Union Ambassador Dr. Marcus Cornaro on immigration-related issues between South Africa and Europe.
Amongst the issues discussed were the feasibility of multiple-entry visas for SA business people to the EU and full exemptions for South African leisure travellers. Minister Gigaba said: “We discussed future arrangements for visa exemptions for ordinary SA passport holders in the EU. We made it clear that this was our top prize, but we are prepared to have a gradual approach.”
For South African travellers and travel agents, the scrapping of the visa requirements would obviously be fantastic news,” says Hayley Walls, Marketing Manager Thompsons Travel.
She explains that South African travellers are often deterred by visa requirements, which they feel are troublesome. “They’ll opt for visa-free destinations such as Thailand, because they want to avoid the hassle of having to obtain a visa. So, if the EU were to scrap their visa requirements, that would without a doubt influence the decision-making process in favour of Europe,” she says.
Theresa Szejwallo, MD of TravCorp South Africa, agrees and says visa are a major obstacle for travellers and have had a severe impact on travel the UK especially. She says: “Trafalgar have managed to work their way around the UK visa by changing our entire offering of a round-trip of Europe which would traditionally start and end in London, to starting and ending in Europe.”
“Scrapping visa requirements to Europe would be a ‘game-changer’ for South African travellers,” says Szejwallo. She adds that Trafalgar would be able to more competitive in the South African market. “We would immediately see an increase in our guided holidays into UK and Europe if there was a visa exemption.
“Of course, this would be great news for both corporate and leisure travellers. Removing obstacles to travel is always positive,” says also Mark Buck, MD United Europe.
However, Buck is quick to add that he doubts that the elimination of visas will lead to a huge surge in travel to Europe. “People are travelling to Paris because they want to see the Eiffel Tower. They’re travelling to the UK because they want to watch Manchester United play. External factors such as the rate of exchange or visa requirements are rarely a deterrent or a major factor in their decision-making process.”
Adapted from a press release for IOL