SA to ensure new visa rules don’t harm tourism

27 June 2014

South Africa’s new immigration regulations are being scrutinised by the Department of Tourism to ensure that they do not negatively influence tourist arrivals, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said in a statement on Wednesday.

The department had received representations from tourism stakeholders on the possible “unintended consequences” of some of the provisions brought into effect by the new Immigration Act signed into law on 2 June, the minister said.

Hanekom said that while the regulation of immigration matters was the constitutional responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs, “any matter that could have a detrimental impact on international tourist arrivals” to South Africa was a concern.

Industry representatives say they are concerned about two specific provisions in the new regulations: the requirement for minors to travel with unabridged birth certificates, and the collection of biometric data (fingerprints and photographs) – which must be done in person at visa offices.

Industry stakeholders told Hanekom they believed these measures could influence the competitiveness of South Africa as a tourism destination.

Hanekom acknowledged that while the new regulations reflected South Africa’s commitment to combating child trafficking, that the prospect of “unforeseen and unintended negative consequences” should be taken seriously.

“Like many other destinations, we have a dual imperative: we have to combat child trafficking by aligning our approach to global efforts, while limiting damage to our competitiveness as a tourism destination.”

The minister said his department and industry stakeholders were studying global best practice on these broader policy challenges as well as on the practicalities of implementing such measures.

Officials from the Department of Tourism were in “urgent discussions” with their counterparts in Home Affairs to clarify any misperceptions and to find appropriate solutions.

Hanekom said he would meet Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to follow up on these discussions if required.

“I want to assure our trade partners and other industry stakeholders that as government, we understand the value of travel and tourism, which has grown so impressively over the past few years.

“We will carefully consider any negative impacts of well-intentioned measures on international tourist arrivals and the attractiveness of our destination.”