Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

HOME Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced on Tuesday that foreign arrivals during the festive season were 7.6% higher than the same period a year ago, despite visa law changes, which the tourism industry said would dent tourism.

Mr Gigaba told reporters in Johannesburg that foreign nationals made up just more than two-million of the 2.7-million travellers who arrived in the country between December 1 2015 and January 7 2016.

Foreign nationals made up 1.8-million of the 2.5-million arrivals into the country in that period, consistent with the same period a year prior. Overall arrivals (foreigners and locals) also increased from 2.5-million to 2.7-million.

However Mr Gigaba did note that 1,700 foreign minors out of a total of 284,191 were turned away over noncompliance with requirements for travelling with minors.

"The period December 1 2015 to January 7 2016 showed an increase (of 4.9%) in travellers from our continent, (6.1%) from Europe, (7.8%) from North America, (15%) from Asia, (2.5%) from Australasia, (21%) from the Middle East, and a decrease (of 1%) for arrivals from South America," Mr Gigaba said.

The minister said the department’s biometric pilot programme (capturing fingerprints and scanning passports) continued through the festive season at OR Tambo International, King Shaka International, Cape Town International and Lanseria airports.

"Biometric capturing … and the fact that travellers no longer require transit visas at these four airports as announced by the department on December 15 2015, has assisted with the smooth facilitation of travellers whilst protecting our national security," he said.

Western Cape and Cape Town investment and trade promotion agency Wesgro also noted positive figures for the December period. Wesgro chief marketing officer Judy Lain said the majority of regions in the province reported increased tourist activity.

"With preliminary reports suggesting an increase in tourist numbers to most of our regions, the overall feeling from within the tourism industry has been a positive one. We are looking forward to reviewing the final summer figures once they are compiled and believe that they will deliver positive results overall," Ms Lain said.