Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba announced amendments to the existing visa regime on Tuesday. FILE PHOTO: ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Cape Town and the Western Cape's Official Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, Wesgro, has welcomed the amendments to the existing visa regime announced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday in a bid to boost tourism as a "step in the right direction". 

This as Gigaba announced among the amendments an update to visa arrangements for business people from two BRICS countries that require visas - India and China - and that getting a visa will now be easier for businesspeople from these countries. They will soon be eligible for a 10-year multiple-entry visa, with only five days needed for their application.

The new arrangement also makes provision for home affairs to take biometrics for those eligible on arrival in South Africa. 

Gigaba said the new arrangement was aimed at attracting business and investment to South Africa after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a "stimulus package" on Friday. 

Negotiations were being finalised regarding visa waiver agreements for countries including Cuba, Palestine, the UAE, Ghana, Kuwait and Morocco. 

Wesgro said that many of the changes implemented in 2014 had had a negative impact on foreign visitor numbers, not only  affecting tourism, but also business travel and the ability of companies to  attract niche critical skills to grow and be globally competitive.

Tim Harris, Wesgro chief executive, said ease of travel and movement across  borders was a fundamental building block of the global economy. 

"We live in an integrated world, where goods, services, supply chains, business, research, entertainment and education cut across national borders," Harris said. 

"For South Africa to remain relevant and competitive in this integrated global economy we cannot erect barriers for visitors, we need to make it easier for people to come to South Africa, while maintaining tight security at the border." 

Wesgro said it was planning to facilitate a visa stakeholder engagement to allow for the details of the amendments to be elaborated upon for Western Cape businesses and to provide support for the implementation of these changes.

Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille said Cape Town welcomed the visa relaxation as it will encourage more visitors to the city and South Africa. 

"This will lead to stronger trade ties with countries and cities from across the world. We know the world owes us nothing and we have to make it easier for tourists and investors to visit our shores, while we build a globally competitive forward-looking Cape Town," De Lille said. 

Alan Winde, provincial MEC for economic opportunities, said tourism was a vital part of the Western Cape economy and the previous visa regulations had had a damaging impact on the sector. 

"The changes announced today, if properly implemented, will help to stabilise the sector and ensure that we can focus on growing the economy and creating more jobs," Winde said. 

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African News Agency (ANA)