Warning over tourists asked to leave South Africa – as critical deadline looms

 ·18 Feb 2024

Tourism industry leaders expressed concern after the Department of Home Affairs instructed foreign tourists to leave the country by the end of February – a move that can harm South Africa’s already ailing economy.

Speaking with eNCA, CEO of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) David Frost said Home Affairs’ decision to boot tourists out of the country is nonsensical and damaging to the tourism sector.

According to Frost, of the 2.6 million tourists who visited South Africa before the COVID-19 pandemic, 77% (roughly 2 million) were from North America and Europe.

Most of these tourists are issued a 90-day visa, which can then be extended by applying for a 90-day extension if they wish to stay longer in the country.

However, the Department of Home Affairs issued a directive on 21 December 2023 that will require tourists who wish to extend their stay in South Africa to leave the country at the end of February 2024 if their visa renewal outcomes aren’t received by 23 February.

This directive has been issued due to the backlog and long turnaround time for visas processed at the DHA, which Frost believes is very short-sighted.

“Do we [as South Africa] want them to stay? Hell yes.. their money is desperately needed in our economy,” said Frost.

“I would suggest – and this is not rocket science – to grant these visitors a six-month visa from the start while the backlog is addressed. This would mean if they want to stay longer and spend more money in the economy, then great,” he added.

With load shedding and the logistic crisis, Frost noted that South Africa wins very little economically, and the only thing we currently excel at is tourism.

He warned that telling these tourists to pack up and go home is an irrational decision, and it will cost our economy and the tourism sector dearly.

Frost said this is a clear sign that Home Affairs cannot do its job, and this has been a flagged concern for years.

For example, he noted that in 2013, South Africa saw over 150,000 visitors from Asia (those needing to apply for a visa), while Australia recorded over 700,000.

Fast forward a decade, and Australia has processed and allowed over 1.4 million visitors from A. Over the same period, South Africa has gone backwards – all because of Home Affairs’ incompetencies.

The Democratic Alliance shared Frost’s sentiment and added the DHA directive would do incredible damage to the country’s tourism industry.

“South Africa stands to lose millions in lost revenue by not allowing them to extend their visas during the busiest season,” said DA MP Angel Khanyile.

The DA has written to the Minister of Home Affairs to request that he issue a new directive which will provide tourists who are in our country on a 90-day visa, awaiting the outcome of their extension, to be granted the right to remain until such a time that the backlog is resolved based on of their date of departure (depending on which comes first).

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