SA’s new visa regulations requiring unabridged birth certificates will result in the country simply not being seen as a family destination over time, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said on Tuesday.
He was addressing the standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture at the Provincial Parliament.
He gave the example of a large tour operator who simply changed its marketing for family destinations to places other than South Africa, due to uncertainty over what the new visa regulations would involve.
In Winde’s view, the impact of the new visa regulations will be that new tourism markets will “simply fall away” – as there is already a drop of 30% to 40% in tourist numbers seen in some of these new markets.
“Even if we fix the problems with the visa regulations, we cannot say how long it will take to get rid of the idea again that it is difficult for travellers to come to South Africa,” said Winde.
Biometric data scanning
He also pointed out that it is not only the unabridged birth certificate requirement that has a negative impact, but also the issue of biometric data scanning. He knows of tour operators who have indicated that they have been losing bookings because of this.
At the same time, confusion about unabridged birth certificates – for example among airlines – is making a negative impact.
“There are already lower tourism numbers than expected coming in and it is predicted that these can go even lower,” warned Winde, adding that these are the lowest figures coming into the Western Cape for the past five or six years.
“The legislation has unintended consequences, we can see that now. While we are putting regulations in place for tourism, other African countries like Kenya are implementing things like visas on arrival,” he said.
He called for an independent review of the impact of the new visa regulations.
An ANC member of the standing committee asked Winde whether the impact on SA tourism from abroad is because of the impact of the new visa regulations or whether it is not perhaps because of negative media coverage about the country by overseas media.
Winde pointed out that it is South Africa which creates the news. The media simply reports on it.
“We are trying to fix the issue of child trafficking with the wrong legislation,” said Winde.
“After the impact it is having on our tourism industry we are seeing now, it is clear we cannot afford not to do something about it.”
Carin Smith, Fin24