The Department of Home Affairs rolled out a new policy that minors travelling to and from South Africa will require an unabridged birth certificate (UBC).
This policy has been met with much contempt from travel associations as they said this policy is creating an unnecessary barrier to South Africa as a holiday destination.
David Frost, CEO of Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said, “This is the biggest challenge our industry has ever faced… we are facing dire threats.”
According to Frost, in the last eight months of 2014, South Africa lost 66,000 foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations. This has resulted in 2.6 billion rand loss for the sector.
In 2015, the number of tourists lost is expected to rise to 100,000 with a net loss of 4.1 billion rand to the South African GDP and 9,300 jobs. Tourists coming into South Africa are expected to drop to 20 per cent in June.
Frost explained that according to the Chicago Convention to which South Africa is a signatory, an unabridged birth certificate is not a prerequisite travelling document. The only required documents for travel are a valid passport and visa, an unabridged birth certificate may serve only as a supporting document.
According to a statement by the Department of Home Affairs, if a minor is travelling with both parents with valid passports and visas than a UBC is not required.
“It is where one parent or another person is travelling with somebody else’s child that we require valid passports, an unabridged birth certificate, and parental consent affidavits.”
The Home Affairs is doing this with the aims of protecting children from human trafficking and ensuring the safety of minors. Frost responded to this reasoning adding that most trafficking occurred within South Africa and not across borders.
He offered that an alternative to UBC is for the biometrics to be done on arrival as this is more cost effective and time efficient.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Tourism Competitiveness Report puts South Africa’s visa policy 67th out of 114 countries. The report, which this is supported by United Nations World Travel Organisation, stated that restrictive policies such as cumbersome visa requirements diminish tourists’ willingness to visit a country.
“We do not understand the claims that our requirements are unique, not applicable elsewhere, and would have consequences for tourism and the economy in general,” said the department.
Frost said they have tried to reach out to the department with no success.
“The onus is on the government to consult with stakeholders of the sector. Active consultation should have taken place with the sector before it was placed on the government gazette,” he said.