New onerous visa regulations for travelers coming to South Africa could see R4.1 billion wiped from the country’s economy, as thousands stand to lose their jobs.
This is according to the Tourism Business Council of SA, which recently published an impact report on the regulations in partnership with Grant Thornton SA.
The report found that the changes in immigration regulations over the past year have seen a direct loss of R886 million to the economy in 2014, with the new visa regulations expected to push that loss further to an additional R1.4 billion in 2015.
From May to December 2014, South Africa lost 66,000 foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations, the group said.
The combined direct and indirect impact of these regulation changes will jump from R2.6 billion and around 5,800 job losses in 2014 to an additional R4.1 billion and 9,300 job losses in 2015, the report said.
The new visa regulations have come under strong criticism from airlines, embassies and key players in the South African tourism industry.
The Visa requirements were pushed forward under the banner of preventing child trafficking in South Africa.
Under the regulations, tourists with all minor children (younger than 18 years of age) will have to travel with a birth certificate in addition to their passport, and visa where applicable.
Further, tourists from countries that are required to have a visa now have to appear in person during the visa application process in order to obtain a biometric visa.
Confusing, onerous regulations
Foreign embassies have expressed concern and confusion over the new regulations, which they described as unclear and ambiguous – notably because there is no specification as to which documents are required (some countries have several that may apply).
Additionally, the TBCSA notes that there are significant administrative issues at hand, while acting against international recommendations and trends.
The group notes that airlines cannot be held responsible for validating birth certificates or allowing children to fly without these documents, and no other country in the world requires children to travel with a birth certificate in addition to their passport when travelling with both parents.
According to the TBCSA, travelers who come from countries without South African embassies would also incur additional costs of over R3,400 to make the trip to the country.
The group went on to question the logic behind the new biometric requirements, as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has indicated it will only have biometric solutions in foreign embassies by 2018.
“The DHA currently does not have the required systems in place to implement biometric visas,” it said.
The tourism body said that it acknowledges the prerogative and duty of the DHA to protect our borders and to tackle issues around security and trafficking of people – especially children – but said the new visa regulations would absolutely have a negative impact on travel to South Africa, resulting in job losses.
“The industry wholeheartedly supports steps to ensure that South Africa controls its borders appropriately, but in a balanced way which minimises unintended negative consequences which could severely impact our potential economic growth,” the group said.