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SA tourism sector still limping following new visa requirements‚ parliament told

Khulekani Magubane | 2016-11-01 14:57:04.0
South African Airways Acting Chief Executive Officer Nico Bezuidenhout Demonstrates Airliner Catering Stripping Operation
The logo of South African Airways sits on the tailfins of Airbus Group NV A340, left, and A330-200 aircraft parked at O.R. Tambo International airport in Johannesburg on February 24, 2015.
Image by: Getty Images

While the SA tourism industry has managed to rebound following a slump blamed on the country’s new visa regulation‚ thousands of visitors have been stopped from entering SA‚ leaving the tourism sector limping.

This is according to the Tourism Business Council of SA‚ which briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism on Friday.

When past data showed travels to SA from traditional tourist markets had dropped in the 2014-2015‚ an inter-ministerial committee was convened to look into the matter.

Adjustments that emerged from the committee included reneging on an undertaking to replace the requirement make for an unabridged birth certificate with and an ordinary birth certificate from 1 November.

It also allowed for the capture of travellers’ biometrics at ports of entry‚ rather than exclusively at SA missions in the traveller’s home country. CEO of the TBCSA Mmatšatši Ramawela told the committee that after the inter-ministerial committee’s recommendation including the capturing of biometrics at international airports‚ tourist arrivals grew 18.7% from 2015.

However‚ she said‚ even in the 2015-2016 period thousands of tourists with pre-paid holidays were turned away from travelling to SA from various embankments globally.

“SAA recorded that 3 974 passengers were denied boarding due to unabridged birth certificates from June 2015 to the end of July 2016. Extrapolating this to all airlines‚ this equates to 13 246 passengers denied boarding‚” said Ramawela.

Ramawela said TBCSA’s study showed that 43% of its respondents‚ being tourism businesses and bodies‚ were still affected by the regulations and that 29% of respondents said clients cancelled their trips because of the new regulations.

In a statement DA tourism committee member James Vos said the Department of Home Affairs had not responded to the TBCSA’s offer to fund the appointment of more immigration officers of assist with the processing of visas.

“Given that the festive season is around the corner‚ which brings thousands of tourists to our country‚ the DA will write to the Minister of Tourism‚ Derek Hanekom‚ to ask what short term measures he has in place to counter this problem‚” said Vos.

Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg on Friday‚ Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni said immigration counters needed to be better staffed and that this constraint made it difficult to process as many travellers as possible into the country.

“The total number of immigration counters at OR Tambo International Airport is 87 and even with a 100% staff attendance not all the counters can be fully staffed. A 100% attendance is not attainable due to normal human resource factors‚” said Apleni.

He said the biometric capturing system helped the department to enhance the country’s capacity to identify and verify the individuals “with the highest possible degree of certainty‚ security and efficiency”.

- TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE

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