South Africa has just eased visa access for
seven countries - including New Zealand, which had a controversial tit-for-tat
visa imposed on it back in 2016.
South African Tourism (SA
Tourism) has welcomed the news from Department of Home Affairs as it improves the overall value offering of SA as a destination considerably. While
domestic tourism is the larger segment, the economic boost often comes from the
pound and dollar wielding international tourists.
The beginning of this year, SA saw a 1.3% decline
between Jan and April 2019, when compared to the same period last year - and
the 3.6-million who did visit, is much less than the 11.6-million overall
target for the overall year.
The improved access will undoubtedly help spur the visitor numbers. Come November 2019, when full implementation is expected according to
the announcement made by Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi during the budget vote on Wednesday -
citizens of Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, New Zealand, Cuba, United Arab
Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia no longer require visas to visit South Africa.
READ: SA scraps visas for new list of countries, including New
Zealand and UAE
“This is amazing news and could
not have come at better time for the tourism industry,” says SA Tourism Acting
CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini.
“As we look to achieve our 5-in-5
goals which is to increase international tourist arrivals by 4 million and
domestic holiday trips by 1 million, the visa waivers will go a long way to
assisting the increase of tourist arrivals into South Africa.”
After New Zealand announced in 2016 that South African visitors
will require a visitor visa, SA changed its visa regulations for New Zealand visitors to needing a visa to enter SA.
Former Minister of Tourism Derek
Hanekom previously detailed how the impact of reciprocal visas with New Zealand
had led to a significant drop in travel from the country as well. In 2017,
after the decision that visas would no longer be required for Russian tourists,
Russian visitors increased by 52%. In sharp contrast to this, after SA imposed a visa requirement on New Zealand, the numbers dropped by 24%.
READ: Local tourism 'more accessible' but why are fewer
international tourists coming to SA?
“The visa waivers to countries in all of our key markets will
ensure that we stimulate growth in the industry that is in line with the
mandate issued to us by President Cyril Ramaphosa,” says Dlamini.
The Department of Home affairs
also committed to employing additional staff to key markets where there is high
demand for visas thus decreasing the visa waiting time.
“Home Affairs offices that
process visas for India, China and Nigeria will receive additional human
resources is a further indication and commitment by government to ensure that
the tourism industry is prioritized,” concluded Dlamini.
READ: 101 countries South Africans can visit without a visa
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