New travel rule 'not enough' to boost tourism to SA

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Image: Martin Rhodes

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) says the relaxing of entry requirements for foreign minors arriving in South Africa did not go far enough to remove barriers affecting tourism.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday that rather than requiring all foreign minors to carry documentation proving parental consent for travel‚ the department would instead strongly recommend that travellers carried this documentation.

“Our immigration officials will only insist on documentation by exception – in high-risk situations – rather than for all travellers‚ in line with practice by several other countries.

“Rather than denying entry where documentation is absent‚ travellers will be given an opportunity to prove parental consent. South African minors will still be required to prove parental consent when leaving our borders‚" Gigaba said.

TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said as the department strongly advised travellers to carry this documentation‚ it meant that the documentation would still be required.

“Nothing has changed on that front. We have not removed the barriers to entry for tourists into the country. We are trying to preserve the barriers. The arrival figures attest to this‚” said Tshivhengwa.

He said the challenge with the new regulation was: who would determine “exceptional” circumstances that would warrant the producing of the documents?

“We want to contribute to the economy and we feel this requirement to be a hindrance. Government must do away with it. If the president is serious about stimulating the economy‚ remove the barriers so that the business can grow.”

The rule previously saw award-winning actor Idris Elba reportedly cancelling a trip to South Africa at the last minute in 2015 after his daughter failed to meet the immigration requirements passed into law that year.

At the time‚ Gigaba said: "No matter how important or famous you are‚ South Africa has sovereign laws which apply to all."

However‚ Tshivhengwa said the organisation welcomed Gigaba’s announcement that visa requirements for India and China – both in the top 10 tourism markets – would be simplified from October by making provision for the taking of biometrics on arrival in South Africa‚ allowing visa applications via courier and issuing five-year‚ multiple-entry visas.

“We will consider easing similar travel restrictions for certain categories of visitors for other countries‚ including Nigeria‚ Kenya and Uganda‚” Gigaba said.

Tshivhengwa said these changes should be implemented as soon as possible.

“We need to ease travel restrictions for these nationals. Other countries have benefited from South Africa’s self-imposed restrictions. We need more people from these countries to visit South Africa.”

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