How will visa regulations impact S.Africa’s tourism growth? - CNBC Africa

How will visa regulations impact S.Africa’s tourism growth?

Southern Africa

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South Africa has seen consistent growth in its tourism sector. PHOTO: fly.co.za

This is according to the country’s Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, who also emphasised the importance of the sector to the country’s economy.

“We’ve been growing consistently for over a long period of time, and outstripping global averages. The sector is doing well – a high employment sector, therefore, very important to the South African economy and we should repeat that as often as we can,” he told CNBC Africa.

“[There are] 1.4 million people employed in the sector – that’s huge, but we have to be constantly vigilant and aware of the possible obstacles to further growth, and the visa regulations could have a negative impact on tourism growth.”

(WATCH VIDEONew visa regulations for S.Africa)

The regulations are expected to make it more difficult for travellers and working professionals to enter South Africa and Hanekom stated that while the Department of Home Affairs may simply be doing what it needs to, he has seen concern coming from the tourism sector.

“When you speak to the industry, they are very concerned about the possible impact of the visa regulations. Although, the Department of Home Affairs is carrying out its mandate to safeguard our national interests and our security interests – we should appreciate that,” he said.

“However, the challenge is to do it in such a way that you absolutely minimise the negative impact on tourism and tourism growth, especially in key markets – China and India.”

According to the minister, China is now South Africa’s fourth largest source market for long-bound or long-haul tourism to South Africa.

“We have to make sure that we don’t put in place, unintended obstacles which will slow down the growth from China or even, in fact, reduce some of the gains we’ve made,” Hanekom added.

(WATCH VIDEO: Impact of new visa regulations on tourism)

While President Jacob Zuma did indicate at the 2015 State of the Nation Address that government would be reviewing the regulations, Hanekom explained that going forward the focus must be on finding a formula that minimises possible negative impacts on tourism.

“At this stage, the decision of cabinet is that it’s not just between the Ministry of Tourism and Home Affairs, there are other affected ministries and departments that we will have a roundtable discussion [with], facilitated probably by the deputy president,” he said.

“We can have a good, hard, honest look at the visa regulations and whether they represent the best interests of our country in totality. That will be the essence of the discussion we’ll have over the next couple of months. The spirit will be to find the right formula, to do what is best for our country.”

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