More than a year since the introduction of the first onerous Visa Regulations in June last year, an Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced changes to the regulations, tremendous news for the Tourism industry.
The new improved revised Visa regulations:
- Require an original or copy of a child’s birth certificate to be shown at the Visa application stage, and an unabridged birth certificate no longer needs to be carried with adults when arriving at our country’s airports or other points of entry.
- A promise has been made to make the Visa application process for tourists from China, India and Russia, fellow BRICS countries, easier than before, hinting at one visa for multiple entries for travel between 3 months and 3 years. This may benefit business tourists, but may not be of any benefit to leisure tourists coming on a once-off holiday to our country.
- A visa-waiver for tourists from China, India, and Russia is hinted at as well, but no further detail is provided
- Visa applications on arrival for tourists from the UK, USA, Canada, and other countries ‘that apply stringent checks’.
- Accredited travel agents in China, India, and Russia should be able to make visa applications for their clients, and such an allowance will be extended to other countries in the future
- Biometric data, including photographs and fingerprints, will be taken at ports of entry to our country.
- Postal Visa applications for tourists from countries without a South African embassy or consulate can be made
- Single parents traveling with children are ‘strongly advised to bring along proof of the relation and consent from the absent parents or guardians‘. Such affidavits of consent expire after six months.
- Parents of South African children under 18 years are required to travel with a ‘birth certificate containing parental details’. In future, parents’ details will be printed in the passports of South African children, to relieve parents of the need to travel with their children’s birth certificates.
- ‘Pilot sites‘ for the implementation of the new Visa Regulations are OR Thambo, Cape Town International, and King Shaka International airports.
- ‘All the concessions will be made within the next three months‘!
- The Inter-Ministerial Committee will continue, to deal with any further issues during the implementation phase of the new improved Visa Regulations.
The new Visa Regulations had led to a clear downturn in tourist arrivals in the past few months relative to 2014, especially from China and India, where the Visa Regulations were more stringent, including the requirement of Biometric visas, data for which had to be captured in person at the few agencies in these two countries.
For a year Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba stubbornly refused to admit to over-zealousness by his Department to prevent child-trafficking, which he said was the intent of the Regulations. The child-trafficking problem was said to be highly exaggerated, with only 30 recorded cases in a year.
Surprisingly Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom was very soft-spoken about the tourism impact of the Visa Regulations, being very diplomatic to his ministerial colleague. Three months ago, he spoke out strongly about the impact of the Regulations for the first time, when the statistics showed that Tourist Arrivals from most of our country’s source markets had shown serious declines. IATA (International Air Transport Association) had shown that the revenue earned by airlines in flights to and from our country had declined in the past year. Travel to our country by visitors with children has also declined.
The most outspoken Tourism player about the new Visa Regulations and their damaging effect has been David Frost, CEO of the Southern African Tourism Services Association, and he praised Minister Hanekom for his role in getting the regulations changed, handling the difficult challenge ‘with a massive amount of integrity’. DA Shadow Minister of Tourism James Vos is quoted as saying that the concessions ‘amounted to nothing more than a band aid’, yet proudly praises his role in getting the amendments made via his ‘persistent submission of motions and statements in Parliament‘ on his Facebook page! He writes that the new improved Regulations are ‘a case of too little too late‘.
The new improved Visa Regulations were approved by the Cabinet on Friday. If the Regulations are only to be implemented in three months, our country may have lost out on Tourist Arrivals for our three key months, being November, December, and January, as well as further beyond, as tourists may already have planned their holidays and have decided to travel to other destinations due to the negative publicity and onerous requirements regarding our country’s Visa Regulations. Minister Hanekom has announced that his Department will engage in an extensive marketing campaign, to communicate the new improved Regulations! Until the new improved Regulations are implemented, the existing Regulations remain in place.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here