The new immigration regulations introduced by the Department of Home Affairs have had a devastating effect on the growth in visitors to South Africa – and will continue to harm the industry until government changes its stance.
This is the view of Comair CEO Erik Venter‚ speaking as his company celebrated 20 years of franchise partnership with British Airways.
“The changes have had a serious effect on tourism in South Africa. We have been talking to a number of tour operators in China‚ Europe and America about this. They have been out and about‚ advising their clients not to come to South Africa. The biggest problem is that people never come because of these issues,” said Venter.
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“South Africa is very much advertised by word of mouth. We don’t have strong advertising in other countries. Our tourism depends very much on the people who are coming here to tell their friends and family about their experience. When they experience the problems that we have in immigration‚ then they go back home and tell people not to come here.”
The biometric system‚ which captures travellers’ fingerprints at South Africa’s ports of entry‚ was introduced by the the department in April last year‚ but rolled out in earnest in June this year at 65% of Home Affairs’ counters at terminals for arrivals and transit passengers. Compounding the problem was the confusion over the requirement for foreign visitors to travel here with unabridged birth certificates for their children.
Venter warns that these regulations introduced by Home Affairs have to change in order to help boost tourism in the country.
“Until these regulations are changed we are going to struggle.”
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa on Friday revealed the extent of disruption for tourists landing at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport‚ measured during 1-18 October 2016: Visitors stood in line at immigration at peak times for between 90 minutes to four hours; 800 passengers have missed connecting flights due to the delays; 24 domestic and nine international flights were delayed. International Migration Services (IMS) counters were only manned at 40% on average.