SA’S VISA REFORMS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR TOURISTS

With the decrease in inbound tourist traffic since 2014 attributed to increasingly restrictive visa regulations, the Department of Home Affairs announced in February 2016 that it would ease some of the requirements. This has been widely welcomed by local stakeholders as a step towards boosting tourism.

In February, Stats SA found that in 2015, international arrivals dropped by 6,8%. Currently, the visa system requires travellers from non-exempt countries to submit their biometric information in person at dedicated centres. Because there are relatively few of these centres, it has become more difficult for some visitors to apply for visas. Prior to 2014, they could apply on arrival or online. Massive markets such as China (the number of Chinese tourists fell by 23% in 2014) and India have been negatively affected, according to Stats SA. As a result, the department is reportedly considering granting visas on arrival to Chinese, Indian and Russian travellers cleared to travel to the USA, Canada and the UK, all of which have strict regulations.

Also on the list of amendments is the unabridged birth certificate requirement implemented in June 2015 for minors travelling to and out of SA. They also require a letter of consent when they are travelling with one parent or guardian.

It is not all doom and gloom. In 2015, there was a 5,4% year-on-year spike in tourist numbers during the December peak holiday period. It is hoped that the new regulations will support this trend in 2016, making SA an even more attractive holiday and business destination. However, there remain concerns over how long the various amendments will take to be implemented.

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