TRAVEL GAZETTE – The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has denied reports that new visa regulations have stopped tourists from coming to South Africa.
“We wish to categorically state that these reports are baseless and inaccurate, stemming largely from exaggeration and distortion of facts,” the DHA said.
The DHA made the statement in response to press reports that international tourists, particularly those from the United Kingdom, were experiencing problems entering South Africa because of stringent immigration regulations.
The Independent Newspaper in the UK reported last Monday that between 10 and 20 families per day are being denied boarding to South Africa at Heathrow Airport, during the pre-Christmas travel period, simply because they do not strictly meet the new draconian visa requirements.
“More travellers from the UK are coming to our shores. Our data systems for recording arrivals and departures at ports of entry show a notable increase of three percent for UK travellers to SA between 1 November and 23 December 2015,” the DHA statement said.
A total of 82,772 UK travellers had arrived in this period, compared to 79, 998 for the same period in 2014, according to the DHA.
Also for children, South Africa experienced an increase in the number of arrivals for the period between November 1,2015 and December 23, 2015, with 8,745 arrivals recorded, compared to 8,508 in 01 November 2014 to 23
December 2014, an increase of three percent, the DHA said.
The South African government welcomes tourists to the country as tourism stimulates economic activity, assisting SA in realizing the aims of the National Development Plan, the DHA said.
Earlier reports said South Africa hasn’t seen an increase in the number of in-bound tourists in the festive season because many tourists are barred by the visa regulations.
Under the revised regulations implemented in mid-2014, tourists wishing to visit South Africa have to apply in person for visas so that “biometric data can be reliably collected”.
On June 1, another new rule took effect, requiring children crossing the borders to be with unabridged birth certificates.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA)said that by the end of 2015, the number of lost foreign tourists due to the visa regulations is likely to hit 100, 000, with a loss of 9,300 jobs and the total net loss to the South
African GDP of around 4.1 billion rand (about 273 million U.S. dollars).
In October, the government promised to relax the visa regulations, but so far concessions to the regulations have not been implemented.