Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that measures would be taken to make it easier for foreign tourists to visit South Africa. However, the recent press conference by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has sparked doubt.
SATSA’s statement comes as Minister Gigaba confirmed that while foreign minors travelling to South Africa will no longer be required to carry the Unabridged Birth Certificates, it is strongly recommended that they do. Immigration officials, he says, will only demand the documentation in high-risk situations.
“Following the President’s announcement, we had expected full clarity to be provided jointly by the Ministries of Tourism and Home Affairs on how the regulations would be amended to give effect to the President’s proposed changes to immigration and visa regulations to help stimulate the economy," says David Frost, CEO Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, the voice of inbound tourism in Southern Africa.
“Instead, Home Affairs issued an obfuscated message that serves only to confuse travellers, much in the way it did when the regulation was first introduced three years ago.”
Issuing an international travel advisory only in October, after today’s vague statements that a UBC may be requested by immigration officials, simply reintroduces the confusion we fought many years to dispel, and undermines President Ramaphosa’s attempts to make it easier for foreign travellers to visit South Africa, reads SATSA's press release.
“Our position from the start has been that this draconian, heavy-handed and nonsensical policy to combat child trafficking has no place in the modern economy. Rather, it should be dealt with through proper policing. Semantic changes to the regulation are not the solution,” says Frost.
“We believe the requirement to produce Unabridged Birth Certificates must be eliminated immediately across the board to ensure South Africa’s competitiveness as a tourism destination and remove any confusion around the requirements for foreign minors travelling to South Africa.
"We do, however, welcome moves by the Ministry of Home Affairs to introduce visa waivers for certain source markets. “We would have liked to have seen an immediate visa waiver for visitors from the Middle East, and New Zealand, a source market which has seen a decline of 30% in arrivals since visas were introduced.”
What South Africa’s tourism sector needs, while this process remains open-ended, is immediate action. “Our key markets of India and China remain constrained because of the inability of Home Affairs to issue visas timeously. We need urgent implementation of measures to improve visa requirements for these markets so that President Ramaphosa’s vision of tourism contributing to the growth of South Africa’s economy can become a reality now, not later.
South Africa’s restrictive immigration laws have greatly hampered the country’s attractiveness as a tourism destination, and subsequently impacted the number of tourists who choose to visit South Africa. It creates a barrier to entry with financial and/or opportunity cost that a prospective tourist needs to overcome in order to travel to South Africa.
“Making announcements regarding changes to immigration regulations, without providing proper clarity, is frankly too little too late.”