Malusi Gigaba. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

TOURISM and travel organisations have welcomed government’s surprise U-turn on elements of the contentious visa regulations, but some have said this has not gone far enough.

Government announced on Friday that some of the more onerous provisions had been eased.

It has been estimated that the regulations caused massive reductions in tourist arrivals to SA, costing the economy billions of rand.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba had earlier insisted that the regulations were not negotiable, and were essential for state security and to curb child trafficking.

In-bound travellers accompanied by minor children will no longer be required to produce an unabridged birth certificate and prospective visitors will not have to apply for visas in person.

The concessions are a product of an inter-ministerial committee chaired by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Home Affairs and Mr Gigaba welcomed the concessions and insisted they did not constitute "loopholes". Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said the concessions balanced security and child-trafficking issues with easing the burden of visa applications.

Home Affairs said: "In terms of the decision on the requirement for travellers to apply for visas in person in countries where there is no SA mission, the department will receive applications, including by post, and capture travellers’ biometrics on arrival at ports of entry. To address concerns around the geographical spread of countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists."

Grant Thornton Advisory Services director Lee-Anne Bac said: "We are delighted with the amendments. These changes will make the visa requirements for foreign tourists to South Africa much more streamlined and easier to obtain, thereby ensuring a much simpler process for travellers to our country."

Southern Africa Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost said: "The changes are great news."

World Travel and Tourism Council CEO David Scowsill said it was important that the changes were implemented quickly and efficiently. Democratic Alliance spokesman on tourism James Vos said the concessions amounted to nothing more than a "band aid".

A Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the industry in anticipation of the visa regulations, had predicted that SA would lose 100,000 prospective visitors this year, miss out on R4.1bn in tourist revenue and place 9,300 jobs in jeopardy as a consequence of the onerous travel requirements.