INTRODUCING e-visas will grow tourism volumes and create new job opportunities, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said during the opening ceremony of the Routes Africa conference, in the Seychelles on Sunday.

"The bureaucracy and costs involved in applying for and issuing visas are a major impediment to foreigners wishing to visit Africa. In an era of globalisation, technology offers many opportunities to enhance security, while facilitating travel and tourism," the minister said.

An e-visa can be obtained online via a secure website, instead of the applicant having to appear at the consulate of a foreign nation.

E-visas are offered by only a few countries, such as Australia, the US and Bahrain.

Passenger numbers in Africa are expected to increase from 68-million in 2010 to 150-million in 2030. This translates into an annular growth rate of 5% for aviation's direct contribution to gross domestic product on the continent.

According to the minister, there were also opportunities to accelerate the creation of regional visa schemes, which would allow international visitors and intra-African travellers to move more freely and efficiently.

In terms of tourism barriers on the continent, Mr van Schalkwyk, citing the Air Transport Association (IATA), said jet fuel prices in Africa were among the highest in the world.

"At the risk of generalising, I think it is safe to say this is the result of a lack of transparency regarding government prices, infrastructure issues and disproportionate taxes. This renders our destinations less competitive - and it means we are not realising our full job-creation and poverty-fighting potential," he said.

mooradz@bdfm.co.za