The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (“TBCSA”) has welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee (“IMC”) to address the unintended consequences of the immigration regulations on various sectors, including tourism and investment. President Zuma made this announcement yesterday, during his mid-year State of the Nation Address (“SONA”) implementation update in Pretoria.
TBCSA has been vociferous in its call for a review of the implementation of two specific new immigration regulations which have a direct impact on the travel and tourism industry:
- the requirement for all children under the age of 18 exiting or entering the country to carry their unabridged birth certificates;
- the requirement for foreign nationals requiring visas to enter South Africa to make “in-person” visa applications at SA Foreign missions for biometric visa processing prior to departure from their country of residence
Responding to the news, TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela said “We welcome the establishment of an IMC to address concerns regarding the implementation of the new immigration regulations. President Zuma first made mention of his intentions to have the regulations reviewed during his SONA address in February, so we have been anticipating this type of announcement for some time and are pleased to see that there is progress being made in this regard”.
Specific concerns which the industry has raised regarding the implementation of the new immigration regulations include:
- The level of readiness within the Department of Home Affairs and foreign missions to implement the new regulation efficiently and smoothly;
- Communication around the new requirements both amongst the South Africa public and internationally, especially to the people processing and facilitating travel – this include our foreign missions, airlines, travel facilitators, etc;
- The impact of the new regulations on South Africa’s tourist arrivals number so far and our overall global position as a top travel and tourism destination.
Ramawela further expressed the travel and tourism private sector’s wish to be afforded the opportunity to participate in this process and to make representations to the IMC.
“The lack of extensive industry consultation is one of the issues which we believe has led to the current standoff between business and the Department of Home Affairs. Apart from leveraging on platforms afforded to us by organisations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), we have never had the opportunity to make direct representations to the Minister of Home Affairs. However, through the IMC, we hope there will be an opportunity for us to share a travel and tourism private sector perspective on this important issue.”
The harm already caused as a result of the introduction of the new regulations remains a key concern for business, however many in the industry view the establishment of the IMC as a step in the right direction. “South African travel packages are being removed from various catalogues, tourism business performance levels and foreign tourist arrivals from some of our key markets have dropped. If we are going to find the means to address the harm that has already been caused by the current impasse on the new regulations, now is the time”, Ramawela said.
She reiterated that the industry fully supports Government’s initiative to strengthen the country’s security, especially taking measures to address the global scourge of child trafficking. “However, we feel that it needs to be done in a manner which does not result in unintended, negative consequences to the sector and the economy as a whole”.
In closing, Ramawela said the TBCSA would be watching the process closely as it unfolds and will stand ready to engage with the IMC should it be called to do so.