Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom announces South Africa's bio-economy strategy in Pretoria on Tuesday. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

THE sharp deterioration in the rand had not only enhanced SA’s attractiveness as a holiday destination for foreign tourists but had also made overseas travel so expensive for South Africans that they might look for domestic alternatives, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom suggested on Friday.

South African Tourism has often reported that domestic tourism has not reached the levels hoped for.

The minister told Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism that his department would be intensifying its efforts to encourage it, now that foreign travel had been put beyond the reach of many people.

Mr Hanekom said 2015 was not an easy year for tourism but had ended on a positive note, and he was optimistic about prospects for the year ahead, especially once the effect of the Cabinet decision on visa regulations was realised.

With the decline in commodity prices and the harsh effect this has had on the mining industry, the government was looking to the tourism sector as a driver of growth and job creation, he said.

Statistics SA has not released the data for the full year of 2015 but information from tourist attractions indicated that it was a good festive season. The number of visitors to Robben Island, for instance, was 40% higher.

Department of Tourism director-general Victor Tharage said much work had been done with the Department of Home Affairs on the implementation of the Cabinet’s decision on visa regulations, which was intended to reduce their negative effect on foreign tourists.

An accreditation system had been agreed upon in China, which would allow accredited travel agents to accept unabridged birth certificates for children travellers without the need to present them in person at a South African mission.

The dispensation in India and Russia was very different and required more work.

Mr Hanekom said the process of getting a new CEO for South African Tourism would get underway shortly.