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Plan to Open Up Tourism in South Africa – Including International Flights – But No Dates Yet

The Department of Tourism presented its revised budget in parliament on 9 July, highlighting how the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown have caused massive damage to the industry.

Addressing parliament’s tourism portfolio committee, Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said that while easing lockdown regulations in the sector was aimed at assisting businesses, it had to be done under strict conditions, and while reinforcing government’s health objectives towards defeating Covid-19.

The minister added that her department’s focus will be on supporting domestic tourism as the first point of recovery.

However, she caution cautioned that the recovery of the entire tourism industry would largely depend on how travel-ready authorities are in terms of managing and controlling coronavirus locally and globally.

The below graphic, taken from the department’s presentation, shows how tourism and the aviation sector is likely to open up in South Africa.

The department did not provide information on when these phases are likely to be introduced – noting again that they were heavily dependent on aviation regulations. However, it made it clear that it will focus on ‘domestic tourism first’.

“Tourism recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through broader domestic tourism, regional land and air markets, and lastly resumption of world-wide international travel.

“The phases may not necessarily follow the same sequence but of certain is domestic tourism first.”

Tourism director-general, Victor Tharage, confirmed that the department lost close to R1 billion in its readjusted budget as announced by finance minister Tito Mboweni.

However, Tharage said that although there were difficult times ahead for the industry and those dependent on it, his department would still be able to meet all its amended targets in line with its adjusted budget.

Travel

At the end of June, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced that a number of air travel restrictions will be eased as part of the country’s move to ‘advanced’ level 3.

Mbalula said that this will include the reopening of a number of domestic air routes, as well as general relaxations around the industry.

The airports include:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport (Bloemfontein);
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richard’s Bay Airport;
  • Skukuza International Airport.

OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, King Shaka International airport, and Lanseria have been open since the start of the June.

South Africans are currently only allowed to fly domestically for business purposes, with international travel only allowed for repatriation and medical evacuations.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Tourism: South Africa Prepares to Welcome the World Again

As South Africa’s government is mulling the reopening of its borders in September, international travelers and travel agents alike have started considering the safety implications of their travels. South Africa’s tourism industry, under the banner of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), has been advocating for the phased reopening and is putting stringent measures in place to lower the risk and ensure the safety of travelers.

The protocols are aligned with guidelines from the World Health Organization as well as South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Disease and Department of Health and have been approved by the South African Department of Tourism. They cover, among other things, the designation of Covid-19 health and safety officers and team leaders; requiring visitors to complete medical and travel declarations compulsory temperature monitoring; and standard physical distancing and capacity controls.

Blacky Komani, TBCSA board chairperson, said the manner in which South Africa’s government has dealt with Covid-19 has been lauded as a world-class approach to dealing with the pandemic. “The protocols have gone through a rigorous process. I’m proud to be part of this country. As South Africa, we are ready to receive tourists and do what we do best, which is take care of them when they arrive.”

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, agreed and added that domestic tourism has currently opened for business travel with partial domestic air travel now allowed. He said: “This move is largely thanks to the sector’s proactive initiatives to de-risk itself. In this regard, the sector is taking the necessary steps to embed evidence-based health and safety measures at all touch points in the tourism value chain. This will go a long way in laying a foundation for a stronger and sustainable tourism sector.”

Ntshona said it is imperative that travelers feel safe and secure. “It goes without saying that health and safety will be top of mind whether we are visiting a local park, attending a conference, going on vacation, boarding a flight or staying at a hotel,” he said. “The need for such reassurance underpins the case for sectorwide health and safety protocols and standards in order to boost traveler confidence.”

Numerous South African hotels, lodges and activities have proactively started implementing the safety protocols and have shared what guests can expect from their travel experience.

Airports in South Africa offer a mainly touchless experience where distancing has become the norm and passengers are requested to scan their own boarding passes. Travelers will also be asked to remove any metal and electronic items at security checkpoints and place the items in a designated tray, a procedure that is not normally practiced on flights within the country. This is to minimize the need for physical pat-downs.

The wearing of masks is currently obligatory in South Africa. On arrival at the lodge or hotel, luggage will be sprayed and wiped down. Hand sanitizer will be available to travelers, and social distancing is expected be observed at all times. Travelers will also be requested to fill out a medical form that inquires about any symptoms they may be experiencing.

Extra care will be taken that meals are served in a safe and responsible way, which means that dining will happen a la carte and buffets will be scrapped. Solo travelers will not be permitted to share a table with strangers due to strict social distancing rules.

The number of people on a game drive vehicle will also be kept to a minimum, although travelers from the same group or family will obviously be able to experience game drives together. Game drive vehicles will be thoroughly sanitized after each use.

In case a traveler feels unwell, some lodges have set up dedicated isolation suites where travelers can get tested. If visitors test positive, it is important to note that South Africa boasts the highest standard of health care in Africa, with an extensive network of private doctors, specialists and clinics.

Although lodges have adapted to the new reality of Covid in their operations, the safari experience remains the same or is even better than before, according to industry players.

Robert More, CEO and founder of the More Family Collection, said that although the hospitality group is committed to doing what it can to curb the spread of Covid-19, none of the efforts will compromise the guest experience.

Said More: “Social distancing may well put space between people, but our business is still reliant on human connections and on the ability to create life-enriching experiences for our visitors. We realize that people will be seeking wide-open spaces, fresh air, beautiful environments and intuitive, warm human service — this is what we intend to deliver. Thankfully, ours is a product where distancing need not be negative: less people on a safari vehicle, for example, can only enhance the experience.”

Marcelo Novais, general manager of Ker & Downey Africa DMC and Grand Africa Safaris, said that even prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, a high level of safety was observed. He said: “For example, our vehicles are new, and our drivers maintain an impeccable level of hygiene during and after each client’s trip. This includes regular cleaning between and even during tours as well as drivers donning gloves. Going forward, our services will continue these high standards of hygiene protocols as well as implement the new regulations, such as wearing masks and implementing social distancing.”

Social distancing is not difficult in Africa, according to the TBCSA’s Komani. “We are not a mass tourism destination. South Africa is known for its space. You can drive for hours without seeing a single soul. We are geared for it,” he said.

Novais agreed, pointing out that Africa’s sought-after wilderness destinations are not densely populated and therefore the virus has had a low impact.

According to Novais, we can expect an influx of luxury and family travelers seeking out safari destinations in 2021. He said that according to a recent survey conducted by Ker & Downey, 63% of clients want to visit Southern Africa going forward.

Said Novais: “We predict that family travel will be highly sought-after once the global travel bans are lifted, as families will be looking to spend quality time together after being cooped up indoors and potentially missing their 2020 family holiday. The combination of travelers seeking exclusive holidays in remote destinations and the postponed bookings from 2020 will pose a challenge for availability in 2021.”

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2], [3], [4].

Our Key Takeaways: Home Affairs Round-table in Cape Town

The British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa (BCBSA) was invited by the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum, which you can read more about here, to participate in a recent engagement with the Minister (Aaron Motsoaledi) and Director General (Thulani Mavuso) of the South African Department of Home Affairs.

The round-table took place at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town, and the Chamber was represented by our very own Lynn Mackenzie – Relocation Africa’s Immigration Lead – who was eager to engage with the Minister and DG.

The Minister discussed each of the main South African visas applied for – Business, Critical Skills, Intra-company Transfer, Corporate, and General Work – and was open to comments from attendees throughout. On the matter of Business Visas, it was noted that the various departments involved seem to be working well together, with the Department of Trade and Industry performing its due diligence.

Concerningly, consensus among those at the meeting was that there is increasing inconsistency between the Act and regulations, and their implementation, especially in overseas missions.

The transition to permanent residence was a hot topic, with practitioners insisting the process should be made easier. Many who move to South Africa still find themselves stuck in limbo, having to renew visas, while being under the impression they are on the path to gaining permanent residency, which brings with it a host of benefits, and allows the individual to feel more entrenched within South African society – something which the DHA assumedly has an interest in.

The Critical Skills visa list from 2014 is currently being updated, however the attendees’ experience was that the system is already in transition, with the new list being implemented in practice. The DHA did not comment on this matter. It is expected that the Department of Higher Education will give the DHA the new list by March 2020, however DHA has been vague about timelines up to this point. We will endeavour to share more information as and when we receive it.

The DHA claimed during the meeting that turnaround times for visas are an average of 4 to 8 weeks, however attendees noted they have not experienced this. We are hoping that waiting times improve in the new year, as the new systems officially roll out. Attendees were also happy to hear that there is frequent engagement and communication between the Home Affairs, Labour, and Trade and Industry departments.

Practitioners at the meeting expressed the fact that rejections are the highest they have seen in recent years and asked for data relating to this matter. The DG staged that data is available for turnaround times and percentage of applications approved. It was also noted that General Work Visa applications are rarely successful, and people are therefore refraining from applying for them. One attendee suggested to the DHA that this category is abolished entirely.

Finally, some meeting members conveyed their dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy in dealing with the DHA, saying that administrative procedures are, at times, excessively complicated. It is our hope that the DHA will cut down on this element of its practices and be more flexible in the coming years.

To end off the meeting, the Minister said there would be follow-up meetings, and regular engagement with DHA, which we greatly appreciate.

We would like to thank the Chamber for providing us with the opportunity to attend this valuable engagement session and thank Minister Motsoaledi and DG Mavuso for taking the time to hear and provide feedback in these kinds of round-table meetings. Relocation Africa looks forward to what 2020 will bring in the South African immigration space.

 

Relocation Africa offers a range of Immigration-related services across Africa. To find out more, click here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa’s e-Visa Pilot Is Live

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has started with the testing and piloting of the electronic visa application system, the e-Visa.

The DHA revealed their plans at a briefing recently.

This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise at this year’s Africa Travel Indaba in Durban, to introduce a world-class e-visa system and reduce the red tape that travellers face when visiting the country.

Ramaphosa said at the time: “We must reduce the onerous and often unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists who want to visit our countries face. This requires us to streamline our tourist visa regimes.

“As South Africa, we are committed to working towards the African Union’s goal of visa-free travel and a single African air transport market. We are in the process of radically overhauling our visa dispensation for the rest of the world and introducing a world-class e-visa system. The challenges are going to be ironed out,” he said.

DHA revealed in a statement that the decision to introduce the e-Visa provided many benefits. “It is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trade partners and Home Affairs officials.

“Once fully rolled-out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work. It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants.”

It also revealed that the department was testing the new system with Kenya.

“As part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya. This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week, on December 9, 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.

“We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised,” the statement revealed.

China, India and Nigeria will be included to the pilot early next year, which will run until March 2020.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: PretoriaTravel [1], [2].

No More Unabridged Birth Certificates Required for Minors Travelling to South Africa

SA’s tourism industry is celebrating, as the Department of Home Affairs finally made a U-turn on rules related to unabridged birth certificates for minors travelling to the country.

Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed in a Moneyweb Radio interview last week that unabridged birth certificates will no longer be required for foreign children travelling to South Africa.

“We have given the instruction that […] it’s no longer wanted. You don’t have to carry it, you don’t have to produce it,” he said in response to a question on the issue from Moneyweb’s SAFM Market Update business show host, Nompu Siziba.

“The argument from Home Affairs was that it was to stop child-trafficking,” added Motsoaledi. “Then we said no, no let’s not trouble tourists with this. Let’s find our own way of fighting child-trafficking, rather than using this method, which interferes with tourism.”

Motsoaledi, who was appointed home affairs minister following the general election in May, has had to deal with the issue which dates back to when Malusi Gigaba held the position.

Despite moves to relax unabridged birth certificate regulations in recent years, it has remained a thorn in the side of the tourism industry and has badly affected foreign tourist arrivals into SA since coming into effect some five years ago.

During his interview, Motsoaledi did not go into detail on how soon the controversial rule will be abolished. However, industry bosses from the Tourism Business Council of SA and the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) say an official announcement is expected as soon as this week.

TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, who was at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa and other business and government leaders last Monday, tells Moneyweb that the matter was discussed at the forum.

“We were told that unabridged birth certificate regulations will finally be abolished, and we’re delighted at the news … However, the minister needs to have written confirmation sent to the International Air Transport Association (Iata) in order for this to be effective,” he adds.

Tshivhengwa says the sooner Home Affairs and Iata meet and finalist the matter the better. “I understand that the Home Affairs Department’s Immigration Advisory Committee will be meeting on October 16, so I expect an announcement soon after that.”

“This issue has been a concern for us in the tourism industry for years and tourism operators into SA have said that they’ve been losing as much as 30% in business due to unabridged birth certificate requirements. However, the impact is likely to have been much worse if you consider would-be international tourists being turned off by this additional red-tape. They would not have bothered and chosen to go elsewhere,” he adds.

Satsa’s CEO David Frost, who has vociferously criticized the regulations from the start, hailed the government’s U-turn.

“We welcome the fact that it will finally be abolished, but it has taken too long and has done a lot of damage. It will take time for the tourism industry to fully recover from this,” he says.

“The private sector drives the tourism industry, and the government should have spoken to us before embarking on the changes five years ago. They never wanted to hear us then, but we are glad that they have finally heard us. This will be one major hurdle out of the way, but we have our work cut out for us to put SA back on the international tourism map,” he adds.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].