When Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba delivered his statements on “easing” of visa requirements and “simplifying” Unabridged Birth Certificates (UBC) regulations for foreign minors, he could not have anticipated the backlash he received from all quarters of the travel and tourism sectors.
Confusing, vague, disappointing, ground-hog day – the responses came in thick and fast from associations, travel industry stakeholders and the general public.
SATSA immediately issued a release stating: “Home Affairs issued an obfuscated message that serves only to confuse travellers, much in the way it did when the regulation was first introduced three years ago.”
In subsequent interviews with SAFM, and Power FM, SATSA CEO David Frost slammed Minister Gigaba’s statements, saying they undermined the spirit of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to stimulate South Africa’s economy.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa says Minister Gigaba’s announcement “doesn’t change anything”. Said TBCSA interim CEO Tshifiwe Tshivhengwa: “
Home Affairs is once again circling around this issue. We want this regulation to be completely removed to re-encourage the movement of people into South Africa if we are serious about creating jobs.”
The Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa said it remained concerned that measures announced by Minister Gigaba would “not result in any significant change in tourism arrivals to the country”.
Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents, added his voice to the fray saying: “if South Africa wants to stimulate the economy, UBC requirements need to be scrapped for all travellers, including South Africans”.
South Africa’s restrictive immigration laws have greatly hampered the country’s attractiveness as a tourism destination, and subsequently impacted the number of tourists who choose to visit South Africa. It creates a barrier to entry with financial and/or opportunity cost that a prospective tourist needs to overcome in order to travel to South Africa.
“We need urgent implementation of measures to improve visa requirements and immigration regulations so that President Ramaphosa’s vision of tourism contributing to the growth of South Africa’s economy can become a reality now, not later,” says Frost.
If Minister Gigaba’s recent statements feel a bit like ground-hog day, Tourism Update provides an interesting bit of background to explain how we got here.