Nompumelelo Magwaza

The department of Home Affairs, which would handle R6.6 billion in the 2014/15 financial year, contributed to economic development in several ways and its contribution as an enabler of tourism was irrefutable, Minister Malusi Gigaba said yesterday.

“Our ability to facilitate large numbers of international visitors across ports of entry has enabled our positioning as a trusted host for major international events,” he said during his budget vote speech in Parliament.

He added that, “opportunistically, South Africa is being advised to drop or relax visa requirements in a world where security has become a major concern. We reject with contempt any suggestions that these regulations are part of an Afrophobic agenda to keep Africans or any nationality out of South Africa.”

The performance of South Africa’s tourism business declined in the second quarter as industry operators continued to face a lack of demand and rising costs of doing business as a result of government legislation. This was according to the tourism business index released yesterday by the Tourism Business Council of SA and FNB.

The report shows a score of 94.7 index points for April to June – almost 18 points below the first-quarter reading of 112.4 index points.

The tourism business index regards a reading of 100 as the normal trading climate.

The report showed the lower reading from the overall index emanated mainly from “other tourism”, which includes travel agents, transport operators and conference centres. This sector achieved a score of only 86.2 points.

The accommodation sector’s reading was 105.8 points, but that was down from 116.1 points in the first quarter.

Council chief executive Mmatsatsi Ramawela said: “The biggest challenge facing tourism businesses remains the rising cost of doing business, which can also be attributed to government legislation, regulations and input costs – as 44 percent of the respondents cited.”

Insufficient domestic and international leisure demand, especially from South Africa’s key source markets, also featured heavily as a constraint, Ramawela added.