Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. Picture: SOWETAN
By Khulekani Magubane, Business Day Live
THE Department of Tourism will begin working to "regain lost ground" in the industry, now that changes have been introduced to SA’s contentious new regulations, minister Derek Hanekom told the tourism portfolio committee on Friday.
Mr Hanekom briefed the portfolio committee in Parliament, saying that the changes to the regime would allow for the beleaguered tourism industry to recover without compromising national security and the fight against human trafficking.
The changes come as part of recommendations by an inter-ministerial committee tasked with assessing the unintended consequences of visa regulations on the tourism industry. The regulations include required unabridged birth certificates for minors and in-person visa applications.
SA will now require a minor’s birth certificate with parental details included. Accredited tourism agencies will also be brought in to facilitate visa applications on behalf of travellers. The visa regulations were blamed for disappointing tourism numbers, with the industry blaming them for scaring off tourists.
"The challenge right now is to get the list of accredited tourism agencies which will get visa applications approved. Measures are being worked on to allow for executive business people to access SA and this is a matter that is being worked on by the Departments of Trade and Industry as well as Home Affairs," Mr Hanekom said.
He said that in countries where there were no South African missions, the Department of Home Affairs would accept applications for medical and visitor visas by post. He said biometrics and photos would be taken on arrival at ports of entry in SA.
The department was preparing to introduce an accredited tourism agency for Brics partners India, Russia and China. SA would also increase the number of visa facilitation centres in countries such as the UK, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates for those seeking visas for purposes other than tourism, Mr Hanekom said.
The inter-ministerial committee accepted the implementation of the current child travel requirements, namely the written parental consent and affidavits. Democratic Alliance (DA) member of the committee James Vos said SA should return to marketing itself as a tourism destination urgently.
African National Congress (ANC) committee member Sheilla Xego-Sovita said the committee appreciated that the minister was able to assist the tourism industry without jeopardising national security.