Tourism sector awaits clarity on visa laws

December 2, 2015, 6:56pm


Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: MARTIN RHODES  

By Khulekani Magubane, Business Day Live

THE tourism industry is in a state of limbo over visa regulations and the potential effects they may have on the sector’s performance in December.

Cape Town Tourism, the tourism council for the fast growing holiday destination of Cape Town, has seen no movement with regards to the installation of biometric facilities at Cape Town international Airport, one of the country’s ports of entry.

The regulations, including the capturing of travellers’ biometric data and a requirement that travelling minors carry an unabridged birth certificate, have been blamed for poor tourism data in recent quarters.

An inter-ministerial committee investigated the matter and determined that biometric could be captured at the port of entry. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba last week said the installation of biometric would be concluded by early next year. However he stuck to his guns on the unabridged birth certificate requirement.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy told Business Day that Cape Town tourism businesses felt prepared for the changes to visa requirements but that a state of uncertainty on the implementation of these measures undermined that certainty.

"The department is looking at a three-month implementation plan. They said they would launch biometric capture at ports of entry but we have not seen anything yet. The three-month window, if finalised by December 31 or January, will be in time for us to start seeing our peak in international travel," he said.

Markets like the UK, Germany and France were not visa requiring countries but numbers could be affected if the biometric system and other requirements are not implemented in time, he said.

"We may see less South Africans going overseas because of the unabridged birth certificate requirement. A lot of locals might opt for a stay-cation spending their holiday in Cape Town.

"It is a cushion for industry but the spend will have less of an impact on the economy. Cape Town is optimistic about forward bookings but we are cautious as we are not sure that the department will be able to implement in time," Mr Duminy said.

Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said the department would provide supplementary letters for those who have waited for more than eight weeks for an unabridged birth certificate and have not been provided with one.

"In the case of unaccompanied minors, affidavits confirming parents’ given permission for such travel is required, as well as the details of the person who will be receiving the minor and the undertaking that he or she will be receiving the child," Mr Apleni said.

He said to avoid parents having to carry birth certificates when travelling with their children in future, parental details will gradually be printed in passports.