Remove barriers today, not tomorrow

By David Frost, CEO SATSA

The promised deadline for government’s gazetting of the amendments to Unabridged Birth Certificate (UBC) regulations has come and gone, and with it comes the promise of further delays in clearly communicating this ridiculous requirement that has set South Africa’s inbound tourism sector back immeasurably.

Admittedly we have seen some positive movement as we wade through a quagmire of unnecessary regulation and red tape, but it’s not happening nearly fast enough.

In his March State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about removing regulatory barriers. With the economy not being in great shape, the tourism industry is the one sector that offers the potential for tremendous growth and can really play a leading role.

We are now at the end of the year, and the decisions that are being taken to “remove regulatory barriers” are being made in isolation and without the insights of the tourism sector.

We are still not seeing a “whole-of-government” approach, harnessing the business sector in tourism, to sit around the table and look for quick wins and a way forward. If we were asked “which countries, would South Africa see quick wins from?” we would be a great deal more excited than we are now and could bring our voice to bear.

Instead of a country like New Zealand, where we have a tit-for-tat visa requirement in place which saw our tourism numbers decline 27%, we have the promise of eased visa regulations for markets like Western Sahara, Belarus and São Tome and Principe. These are not big tourism markets and are never going to deliver the quick wins we need.

And while we are pleased to see there has been some movement on UBCs for inbound travel, we are now once again waiting for that final wording to be gazetted.

Once that happens, we need to be ready with a massive communication exercise to go out to the world and tell them we’re open for business. That needs to happen immediately.

The point is, when you’re behind the 8 ball and you’re in a recession, you don’t have to have endless meetings, processes and reviews to make changes. You just need to get on and do the business, which is something we managed to illustrate when former President Jacob Zuma removed the visa requirement for Russia overnight. In the subsequent year, we saw a 54% increase in tourists from Russia, and this is the type of quick win we’re suggesting.

It is our job to hold government to account and we will continue to do this on behalf of our members, emboldened by the fact that we now have a fully functioning Tourism Business Council.

Watch this space…

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