In the past month, we’ve certainly seen some movement in the right direction when it comes making it easier for tourists, business people and academia to visit South Africa.
The changes announced by the Ministries of Home Affairs and Tourism include:
• Visa requirements are to be simplified for China and India, while visa waiver agreements will be finalised with a number of countries, mostly African and the Middle Eastern;
• An e-visa system will be piloted in New Zealand by April 2019; and
• From the end of October 2018, when both parents travel with a minor, no additional documentation will be required.
• In the case where only one parent or a legal guardian, or another adult travels with a child, he/she may be required by an immigration officer to establish the adult’s relationship with the child. In this event, documentation, including a letter of consent will be requested, however, the consent letter will no longer need to be in the form of an affidavit.
• In cases where the documentation is requested, the adult travelling with the minor will be given an opportunity to produce the documents after arrival.
The jury is still on out as to whether these changes and the amended wording around Unabridged Birth Certificates will cause a discernible sellable proposition for inbound travel to South Africa. This, after we’ve told the families worldwide: “Don’t bring your family to South Africa. It’s going to be difficult.”
Although carrying ‘additional documentation’ for foreign minors accompanied by both parents is no longer a requirement, what we have done is leave it in the hands of Immigration Officials to decide whether the child and accompanying adults require “additional documentation” to gain entry to South Africa.
Our question to members is: Will this change in the additional documentation requirements for foreign minors constitute a discernible difference to your efforts to sell family travel to South Africa? We would welcome any comments you may have on the issue, so that this can be fed into the appropriate government processes and discussions.
Furthermore, the conceptual shift in visa waivers and announcement around e-visas marks progress but remains disappointing, as the initial list of countries, with the exception of the UAE, do not yield major leisure tourism numbers.
While we acknowledge that private sector has not been consulted on which source markets would be most beneficial for leisure tourism, we would encourage you to give us your opinion on the matter.
We will continue, through the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), to channel these views to the right stakeholders in Government.
I’m pleased to say on that front, that this body has new direction under its new chairman, Blacky Komani, who is also the Deputy CEO of Tourvest. It is fit and proper to have someone from the industry in the role of chairman and in a short period of time, Blacky has managed to pull the board together with a united purpose and clear strategy.
This augurs well for SATSA, as we can now synchronise our efforts with the other associations under the umbrella organisation of a functional TBCSA and draw on its broader support and influence.
Part of the TBCSA’s responsibility is to administer the Tourism Collaborative Fund, which is a percentage of the TOMSA levy earmarked for incremental marketing initiatives that can take tourism forward and produce a clear return on investment.
The Tourism Collaborative Fund has, among others, contributed to a new Wesgro campaign to relaunch the Western Cape following the declines we’ve seen as a result of the drought messaging, as well as a SATSA initiative to regulate Adventure Tourism, which we’ll be updating members on in the near future.
Also on the horizon, is a joint SA Tourism-Tourism Business Council of South African international roadshow to key international markets, which I will be joining in November to share the message that we’re open for business and to counter the negative perceptions around safety and security, land appropriation, and the Western Cape drought. We will be engaging with the trade and media in these key markets and are open to ideas and any contacts you believe we should be meeting as part of this roadshow.
Good news for the SATSA family is that it is growing. I am pleased to announce that the South African Youth Travel Confederation (SAYTC) recently voted to merge with SATSA at its AGM in the Cederberg. And so, we welcome our youth chapter into the SATSA fold from 2019, which will bring our membership to well over 1000 members and bring more gravitas to and responsibility for SATSA. We are very excited by the merger, which augurs well for both organisations.
Finally, I would like to thank our members, and the team at SATSA, for achieving the incredible feat of collecting 95% of membership payments by the end of September. This is a first for SATSA and a testament to the value our members see in the organisation, and the efficiency of the team under the leadership of our COO, Hannelie du Toit.