Cape Town - South Africa’s tourism sector has seen a R4bn economy boost in February this year but SA’s opposition party the Democratic Alliance says the figure could have been so much better had it not been for archaic visa regulations.
For the Easter holiday period alone more than a million people travelled through the country's ports of entry over Easter, according to the department of home affairs.
SEE: Holidaymakers' R4bn February spend points to strong SA tourism growth
“Defective national legislation by the Department of Home Affairs related to visa requirements for foreign visitors is seriously hampering growth in South Africa’s tourism sector,” Says DA Spokesperson Beverley Schäfer for Standing Committee Chairperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture.
In October 2016 a First Draft Amendment to SA’s immigration regulations was tabled, as recommended by the inter-ministerial committee appointed to address the issues it has created for travellers to South Africa since its implementation in 2015.
The draft was described at the time as “half-hearted” by DA spokesperson for Tourism James Vos. The contentious requirement that parents traveling to South Africa with their children must produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) was not removed.
Schäfer states, “The necessity for unabridged birth certificates for travelling minors dissuades hundreds of thousands of potential visitors from visiting our country. Just last year, around 13 000 people en route to South Africa were turned away at foreign airports because they were not in possession of the relevant documentation.”
SEE: New changes to SA's visa rule 'half-hearted'
As a result the ongoing visa review is once again being called into question with the DA now asking the new Minister of Home Affairs, Hlengiwe Mkhize, to urgently address the tourism visa regulations
Schäfer calls the legislation "archaic and stifling the job-creating and revenue-making potential that South Africa so desperately needs".
“Unabridged birth certificates for children entering the country is an unnecessary measure which has dire effects on our economy.”
SEE: Child trafficking: Home Affairs increases security ahead of Easter
However former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in March expressed concerns about human trafficking, detailing the most recent cases of child trafficking. According to Gigaba, a total of 15 cases of human trafficking have been reported in 2017 alone.
Three children were intercepted by immigration officers at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday, 29 March, the DHA released a statement saying that a "male individual was prevented from departing the country with three children with fraudulently acquired travel documents".
However Schäfer calls into question the initial reasoning behind the visa regulations, which aimed to curb child trafficking, stating that the issued should ”be regulated through passenger profiling and co-operation with Interpol, a practice carried out by almost every other country in the world”.
Schäfer called SA’s approach to this problem through the use of unabridged birth certificates “economic suicide”.
“South Africa’s tourism industry is one of very few still thriving in the face of economic uncertainty following national government’s increasingly erratic and reckless decisions with regard to our economy.”
The issue of Tourism as an economic driver is a key focus of the current World Travel Market Africa taking place in Cape Town until Friday 21 April. Data indicates that South African tourism has even overtaken the mining sector as a national employer and earmarked to "bring in some R300 billion into the economy”.
SEE: #AfriTravel: WTM Africa 2017 showcases best of tourism on the African continent
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