In an interview with Tourism Update, CEO of Cullinan Holdings, Michael Tollman, has stated that South Africa's new immigration regulations are already having grave effects on the travel of tourists into the country from one of our main growth markets, China.
According to Tollman, who has received feedback from Chinese travel agents, a 70% drop in travel from China to South Africa is forecast due to the new immigration regulation's hasty implementation. This is extremely worrying considering that Chinese interest in South Africa is key to economic growth.
Furthermore, it is alleged that travel agencies in China have resorted to diverting clients eager to travel to South Africa to visit other African nations instead, and that all Chinese marketing for packages to South Africa has officially stopped. This would mean that the new visa regulations are killing South Africa's tourism industry and cutting the country off from access to one of our key growth markets.
Members at the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) have already reported a number of cancellations, further proving that South Africa's tourism sector is at stake due to the new immigration regulations' implementation.
The DA will submit questions to the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, to request an update on all latest tourism figures from China since the inception of these new regulations. We will continue to submit these questions on a regular basis to continually monitor tourism figures.
Last week, I raised the DA policy proposals at the Tourism Portfolio Committee Meeting during which the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, agreed with my points and welcomed my request to meet with him. I am still waiting for him to respond to this request and trust that it will happen so that I can raise these concerns. These DA policy proposals included:
Ensuring that the Departments of Home Affairs and International Relations cooperate effectively to reduce the turnaround time for issuing of visas;
Reducing the cost of visas for international visitors;
Investigating the use of e-visas (electronic visas), m-visas (mobile visas) and e-passports as an alternative to traditional options to improve security and decrease turnaround times. Electronic or mobile visas are already in use in some countries (including Australia, Dubai and India) allowing visitors to apply online through a secure website;
Establishing a regional travel zone, allowing international visitors to get a signal visa for travel to selected countries in Sub-Sahara Africa; and
Working to simplify travel requirements for regional travellers.
There is mounting evidence to show that the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, introduced the new regulations prematurely and that these new rules have severely hindered tourism and investment into South Africa.
The DA will continue to push for a review of these regulations in order to ensure we continue to be a top tourist destination globally, so that we can grow our economy and create jobs.
James Vos, Shadow Deputy Minister of Tourism