Cape Town - As the EU is considering to relax visa requirements for SA travellers from March next year, New Zealand has taken another approach.
From 21 November, South African visitors to New Zealand will require a visitor visa, an exercise that can take up to six weeks and will cost NZ$165 (about R1 600) per person.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) issued a statement saying the changes are being made as a result of an increase in the number of South African nationals who have been refused entry at the New Zealand border in comparison to other visa waiver countries.
According to tour operators and travel agents, New Zealand's new requirement could be an important deterrent for travel to the island. They say that visa-free destinations have become increasingly popular as South Africans want to travel without the hassle, headache and cost of applying for visas.
“SA passport holders almost expect to need a visa for most countries, so when a country is on their bucket list and is visa-free, the chances are that they will choose the visa-free destination over the others,” says MD Development Promotions Jane Davidson.
The following six visa-free destinations are popular hotspots for South African travellers for the upcoming December holidays:
Trafalgar has seen a massive increase in demand for Ireland from South African travellers. “We've seen a huge upswing in demand for Ireland in 2016,” says Theresa Szejwallo, MD Travel Corporation and Trafalgar South Africa. Szejwallo attributes the rise in popularity to the fact that Trafalgar has actively started promoting Ireland as a visa-free destination in 2016. “People love the fact that they don't have to spend any time or money on visa applications,” she says.
Davidson adds: “Apart from the effort, time and money expended in obtaining a visa, the offer of a stay of up to three months visa free already conveys a heart-warming message of welcome to the potential visitor. This endorses the Republic of Ireland's already warm and friendly image, and this would be a definite defining consideration on choosing Ireland over another country where a visa is required.”
Davidson explains that South Africans relate well to Ireland…..pubs, sport, fun, music, Guinness etc. English is spoken, driving is on the same side of the road. Add to that the culture, history, heritage, spectacular scenery and fabulous food and Ireland has all the makings of a memorable holiday experience.
For travellers wanting to experience French flair combined with a tropical laid-back lifestyle, Reunion Island is the place to be. An up-and-coming destination for South Africans, Reunion is part of the European Union, and will give travellers a true taste of France: the locals are all French citizens, French is the official language and the currency is the Euro. Also the flight on Air Austral is sure to bring you immediately in the French holiday spirit, as you will be welcomed by a friendly French crew. The only difference with France? You don't need to apply for a Schengen visa if you're coming from South Africa…
Last year, South Africans ranked as the seventh most common tourists to the Seychelles, a trend that is expected to continue this year thanks to an increased number of flights between the two destinations.
Also the fact that South Africans don't need to apply for a visa to visit is a major incentive for travellers seeking a sun-filled and exotic holiday. Says David Germain, Director Africa and the Americas for the Seychelles Tourism Board: “Tourism is the main industry in the Seychelles and the main contributor to the economy. The visa-free travel is definitely a very big incentive for potential travellers to the Seychelles.”
Mozambique is popular getaway for South African travellers, especially during the busy December holidays, according to Natalie Tenzer-Silva, Director Dana Tours. South African travellers enjoy the fact that they don't have to go through the hassle and cost of applying for a visa.
With Fly Blue Crane planning affordable flights from South Africa to Mozambique in the near future, the popularity of the destination is really expected to increase even further. “If the new flights will be at low-cost rates, we can expect an increase in demand from South Africans,” says Tenzer-Silva, adding that especially short weekend breaks from Johannesburg will become increasingly popular.
Demand for Mauritius remains steady amongst the South African public. Hayley Walls, Marketing Manager Thompsons Travel, explains the fact that South African visitors don't need a visa to travel to this tropical island is definitely a bonus. She says: “The proximity to South Africa, helps position this as a hugely popular destination. Thompsons Travel are experts in travel to Mauritius and have an abundance of packages available for all budgets and all travellers, whether travellers are honeymooners, families or solo travellers.”
Thailand remains a popular holiday destination for South African travellers. Why? The reasons are quite simple, according to Walls. She explains that Thailand remains a cost-effective destination even for those with the volatile Rand in their pockets. The fact that the destination is visa-free is also a huge advantage, according to Walls. She says: “South African travellers are often deterred by visa requirements, which they feel are troublesome. They'll opt for visa-free destinations such as Thailand, because they want to avoid the hassle of having to obtain a visa.”