Johannesburg - The number of tourists travelling to South Africa is dwindling, suffocating big business, including hotels, and suppressing small, medium and micro enterprises.
An estimated R10-billion will be lost every year as a consequence of the new immigration laws that came into effect on June 1, according to a report tabled by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA). The organisation is an umbrella body for the travel and tourism private sector in the country.
TBCSA chief executive Mmatšatši Ramawela said this week that South Africa was no longer regarded as a family-friendly destination.
She said the changes that affected the tourism industry included the requirement that all minors travelling to and from South Africa be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate in addition to a passport and visa. This applies to children travelling with both parents, one of them, or a third party adult, the report stated.
Another requirement that was discouraging tourists from visiting South Africa was having to appear in person to apply for a biometric visa, said Ramawela.
Lee-Anne Bac, a researcher at Grant Thornton, the organisation that compiled the report, said birth certificates were not recognised as valid travel documents in other countries.
It is estimated that 15 percent of 9.4 billion of inbound tourists will be affected by the requirement that children have to travel with birth certificates, “assuming a ratio of one adult, one child”, said Bac.
“There is no international standard for birth certificates. Each country has the right to develop their document that proves the birth or existence of a person. Some countries do not even issue birth certificates,” she said.
Bac said the level of birth registrations in southern Afri-can countries was less than 50 percent, translating into a low number of children who had been issued with birth certificates.
“Therefore tourists looking to travel to South Africa with their children may well be deterred from visiting due to the hassle factor,” she said.
She said the regulations also placed a burden on airlines.
“Under the new regulations airlines will be responsible for not only confirming valid visas for its passengers where applicable but also for confirming that all children travelling into and out of South Africa, whether accompanied by their parents or not, have a valid birth certificate.”
Bac said South Africans travelling abroad would also suffer a huge blow because the process of applying for an unabridged certificate could take longer than before because the Department of Home Affairs did not have sufficient capacity to deal with the de-mands, among other reasons.
She called for the implementation of the visa-friendly laws and the implementation of what she referred to as a “biometrics on arrival system”.
Ramawela said TBCSA and other like-minded organisations would exert pressure on Home Affairs to consider a review of the immigration legislation.