New visa legislation can dent tourism
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Cape Town - South Africa’s proposed immigration legislation is more likely to affect tourism than xenophobia, say experts.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the most serious problem affecting tourism in the Western Cape was uncertainty over new visa requirements and unabridged birth certificates for children. “Add to this the negative publicity about xenophobia, violence and Eskom load shedding and our country, including the Western Cape, becomes less appealing to tourists.”
She was responding to a recent report from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (Tbcsa) on the steady performance in the travel and tourism industry during the first quarter of this year.
Mmatšatši Ramawela, chief executive of the Tbcsa said despite the steady performance, the council was concerned about the impact on the sector by the negative publicity generated by the latest flare up of violence against foreign nationals.
Myburgh said fortunately Cape Town and the Western Cape had become a strong tourism brand and had not suffered yet. She said, however, there were strong indications that tourism from China and India was going to fall sharply because of the visa requirements.
“In terms of the new rules, tourists will have to apply in person for visas to visit South Africa. Most tourists from China travel in groups and, in the past the travel agents have applied for the visas for the whole group. Now each traveller will have to apply in person. China is a big country and there are only two visa offices so there are enormous practical difficulties as well as the cost of travelling to the two centres to apply in person.”
She said this meant that travel agents would simply look to other destinations and South Africa will lose the business.
Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said tourism was the fastest growing sector in the Western Cape, employing over 200 000 people in formal jobs.
Winde said Project Khulisa, an initiative by the Western Cape government in partnership with the private sector, had identified tourism as a priority sector for the next five years.
“We are working to significantly ramp up opportunities in this sector. We are deeply concerned at these sporadic outbreaks, which have mainly affected KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.”
Winde also said the biggest threat to growing the industry was national government regulations, specifically the visa regulations. “The travel trade across the world is already warning of a significant drop in visitors to South Africa as a result of the visa regulations.”
Jeff Rosenberg, Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa vice-chairman, said as far as the association was concerned, there had not been any cancellations as a result of xenophobia.
He said this was after the association had surveyed about 45 hotels and smaller accommodation businesses. “There is clearly a lot of concern out there. But we are keeping an eye on the situation.”
Enver Duminy, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism said tourism in South Africa was facing tough times with a number of issues surfacing collectively to make business very challenging.
“Cape Town is fortunate in that our destination receives consistent endorsement from the global media. Just recently Cape Town was placed third as Condé Nast Traveler’s top cities for food, for instance. Our inbound numbers have continued to rise, Cape Town International Airport reported 4.3 million total arrivals during 2014, a 3.4 percent increase year-on-year.
“However, we share the concerns of our industry about the long-term impact of repeated negative exposure on our business and our destination.”