JOHANNESBURG – The release of the Tourism 2016 report by Statistics SA last week showed that the number of overseas tourists surged by almost a fifth in 2016. This was in part due to the due to the weak rand, which made a holiday in South Africa very cheap for an overseas tourist.
Despite the rebound in 2016, South Africa was still suffering from the misguided imposition of more stringent visa requirements in October 2014, as the number of overseas tourists remained below their 2013 levels.
The release of the report also highlighted StatsSA’s resource constraints as its budget has been cut by R400 million this fiscal year. The Tourism report this year was released more than three months later than last year’s report, which was released on April 4.
New visa regulations from October 2014 that required an in-person visit for biometric data to South African consulates for visitors from non-visa exempt countries such as China, Russia and India had an impact, but there were other factors at play as only one (The Netherlands) of the top 10 overseas source countries showed an increase in 2014 compared with 2013 as the Ebola scare, the collapse in oil prices and generally weak global economic growth in 2014 also had an influence.
The visa requirements were relaxed and the capacity to process them was improved in 2015 and 2016 in a belated attempt to mitigate the effects on the tourism industry. As 10 tourists are estimated to create one job, the near 130 000 drop in overseas tourist numbers since 2013 has cost some 13 000 jobs at a time when the unemployment rate exceeds 27 percent.