Cape Town - A group of 45 Indian tourists’ trip to South Africa is in limbo after becoming “one of the first reported casualties” of South Africa’s new unabridged birth certificate requirements, Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde says.
Winde said he had received correspondence from an India-based tour operator on Friday, who informed him that a group of 45 people were likely to cancel their trip because one of the children travelling in the party had not been granted a visa.
The trip is scheduled to commence on June 16.
In terms of the new requirements, which came into effect on Monday, parents who enter or leave South Africa with children under the age of 18 have to carry an unabridged birth certificate for them, in addition to their passports.
In certain instances, however, exemptions apply.
According to an advisory by the Department of Home Affairs, Indian passports record the parents’ names and, in this instance the requirement of an unabridged birth certificate “may be dispensed with”.
The provincial government’s Red Tape Reduction Unit is looking into the matter.
Raybin Windvogel, the unit’s director, said it was suspected that this exemption had not been taken into account when the visa application in this case was considered.
Winde said: “The tour operator stated that all its tour groups spend nine nights in the Western Cape. Research by the tourist industry indicated that the average spend per international tourist is around R5 000; hence the visa refusal may cost the Western Cape economy well over R200 000. There are more than 200 000 people employed in formal jobs in the tourism sector in the Western Cape, these jobs are now under serious threat”.
With reference to the implementation of the new requirements, he said: “It’s gone better than expected. We didn’t think it would be a seamless exercise but for the most part it went smoothly”.
The department has indicated that there were other countries with similar requirements.
At a press briefing last week, Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said parents, who regard the requirement as a burden, should consider what would happen if their child left the country without their consent. He said child trafficking was a reality.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also expressed concern about the new immigration measures.
“From a commercial and economic perspective, the industry is concerned that the harsh and onerous requirements South Africa has prescribed for travellers will negatively impact on the sustainability of air services, travel, trade and tourism to, from and via South Africa.
“That would undermine the country’s economy – which is already vulnerable and fragile – with serious repercussions that would be felt across the entire sub-Sahara region,” it said.
Meanwhile, the tourism industry is bracing itself for what it believes will be the “disastrous” effect of new immigration regulations.
But Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told a World Economic Forum briefing on Friday that the government was considering reviewing the regulations after being inundated with calls.
“Despite the noble intentions of these immigration policies, they have had an unintended consequence, which needs to be addressed,” he said.
Describing the regulations as “lunacy”, David Frost, the chief executive of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), which deals with inbound tourism, said that the impact could already be seen in the 20 percent drop in bookings for this June compared to June last year.
“This is the tip of a very large iceberg. We are going to take big hits,” he predicted.
James Vos, the DA’s spokesman on tourism, on Sunday described Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs, and Derek Hanekom, the Minister of Tourism, as “tourism terminators”.