This article first appeared in the 1 July 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - Forged bank statements, insufficient funds on submitted bank statements, fabricated invitation letters and falsified hotel reservations are just some of the reasons South African missions abroad rejected 98 000 tourist visa applications from around the world.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi shared a document which showed 98 760 tourist visa applications had been rejected during the 2021/2022 financial year.
The figures were collated from South Africa’s embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic posts abroad.
Motsoaledi shared the reasons and the statistics in a written parliamentary response to a series of questions asked by DA parliamentary tourism spokesperson Manny de Freitas.
Yesterday, De Freitas said that – based on the minister’s reply – he would be asking more questions to find out the exact circumstances.
“I’m saying there are many applicants and I want to know why they are being rejected.”
He said South Africa’s tourism figures were simply not good enough and it was important to understand that the country had many competitors for tourists.
“I don’t believe that the Tourism Department is as aggressive as it should be in trying to regain our pre-Covid-19 tourism figures,” said De Freitas.
He said the reply didn’t talk about things like red tape, which he said was one of the issues he had phone calls and emails about from tourists and tour operators.
Despite this, however, Statistics SA’s (Stats SA) latest data show that overseas tourist arrivals continued to recover in April, but remained below pre-pandemic levels.
In April, 1.6 million travellers, including arrivals, departures, and those in transit, passed through South Africa's ports of entry and exit.
Of these, more than 600 000 were South African residents and a million were foreign travellers.
Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke gave the breakdown of the tourists by region as: 119 518 from overseas; 304 123 from the SADC countries; and 6 964 from other African countries.
He said the country of residence of 771 tourists was classified as unspecified.
Meanwhile, quoting Wesgro’s May 2022 report, Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC Mireille Wenger said the May 2022 statistics confirmed that the recovery of tourism in the Western Cape was continuing.
Wenger said this was good news for the Western Cape’s tourism and hospitality sector, which employs tens of thousands of residents across the province.
“Considering that this period covers the start of our historically low winter tourism season, these statistics certainly give hope to a sector that has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic,” said Wenger.
She said now that the remaining restrictions had been lifted, she was hopeful that these upward trends would continue.
“We do, however, need to acknowledge the possible impact of the rising price of petrol and the grounding of the Comair fleet,” she said.