Statement issued by James Vos MP
DA Shadow Minister of Tourism
Electronic visas – A missed opportunity for South African tourism
The Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, and Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, have failed to safeguard the long-term prosperity of the South African tourism industry by refusing to implement electronic visas.
The use of biometric visas has proven to be problematic since it came into effect. Some of the obstacles are the confusion around the application of the Unabridged Birth Certificate, unacceptable long delays at the immigration check points at South African airports, and foreign missions ill-equipped to deal with applications.
I will write to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the Chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Visa Regulations, calling on him to urgently escalate the roll-out of electronic Visas as a means of streamlining tourist facilitation. The E-visa system is the solution to the current Visa regulation catastrophe, and would facilitate easier access for tourists to South Africa.
At the same time I will also remind the Deputy President that in terms of the concessions recently announced by the IMC, these are only policy statements and not a decision yet. The outstanding matters from the IMC recommendations are the actual amendment to the Immigration Regulations that deals with the requirement of the unabridged birth certificates and the announcement on Visa exemptions for BRICS countries, to ease travel and increase tourist arrivals to the country.
We need to streamline tourist facilitation to our country to make it easier for travellers to select South Africa as a country of choice when it comes to travel and trade. Ultimately they should cut the red tape and roll out the red carpet.
With the rand being at its lowest point in 14 years, South Africa’s tourism industry should be thriving as a tourist destination for foreign travellers – but, in spite of this, the government’s visa regulations continue to turn tourists away.
Every day people are turned away from travelling to South Africa because of continued confusion surrounding the requirement for unabridged birth certificates for minors travelling to the country. This is according to figures received from several sources within the airline industries.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa must immediately put an end to the cloak and dagger Inter-Ministerial Committee set up to “consider the unintended consequences” of these job-killing visa regulations, and institute a substantive and whole-scale review which seeks to assess both their suitability and effect.
The failure to implement electronic visas will ultimately cost the South African tourism sector by making it more difficult to attract visitors to South Africa.
In failing to implement electronic visas, in line with other countries such as Zambia and Turkey, government, during its announcement of the concessions, failed to seize an opportunity to act in the best interest of South African tourism.
Electronic visas will drastically cut the turnaround time for the issuing of travel documentation, and are in fact more secure than existing permits.
Despite the threat to the sector, the Deputy President has largely kept his head in the sand, seemingly refusing to take any action to prevent harm to jobs in tourism.
On numerous occasions the DA has called on the government to act in the best interest of jobs in the sector – a call that has been clearly ignored.
The times has come for them to provide answers to Parliament.
James Vos MP
Shadow Minister of Tourism