Dave Marsh writes in South African Tourism Update:
They are calling Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, the Tourism Terminator.
Unmoved by the evidence and growing alarm in the travel and tourism sectors about new immigration regulations, he has just reaffirmed in a joint statement with Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism, that they will be introduced almost unchanged on October 1.
Our main source markets for tourism will be hard hit. Most do not require a visa and tourists will depart for SA armed only with a passport. With no need to call on an SA mission, why would they think otherwise. If they are travelling with a minor they may get as far as the last leg before they are denied boarding. They will return home shattered, litigating with their travel agent and airline. There will be negative travel trade press coverage in each market about this extraordinary regulation.
SA requires the citizens of most countries to have a visa. They plan to have all our missions enabled to fingerprint and photograph applicants by October 1. They are talking about increasing the number of centres but where and when they themselves do not know at this stage – and it will not be in time.
With biometric visas issued at relatively few centres worldwide, it effectively ends the convention and group tour business as we know it. This will now be limited to those events or tours where all the participants come from the visa-free markets. An international event organiser would be foolish to ask delegates to go to a destination if it meant some of them would have to fly to another centre, or even another country, to be fingerprinted as part of the process for a visa.
Mr Minister, we have three simple questions:
1) When you say the unabridged birth certificate requirement is not uncommon in other countries, please name the countries, as we have heard of none.
2) When you say you have consulted over these regulations, please tell us with which tourism bodies and when.
3) Independent fact-checking organisation, Africa Check, has investigated claims that over 30 000 children are being trafficked into prostitution in SA each year. It followed up and found the NGOs were making wildly exaggerated claims to capture public attention and generate moral outrage. Ivo Vegter in the Daily Maverick reported that only a very small number of cases could be substantiated by evidence, according to the analysis. Of those, many appear to have taken place entirely within South Africa, without involving any international air travel. It is not a basis for policy. So Mr Minister, what details do you have about the international aspect of this child trafficking scourge?
We may be wrong but we think the minister cannot answer any of these questions satisfactorily.
David Frost, SATSA CEO, has pointed out that there was no process of active consultation with the tourism industry. “Nor have we had sight of any economic or regulatory impact assessment study from Home Affairs,” he says.
SATSA is lobbying for a 12 month postponement. “To this end we will be working closely with our fellow associations, ASATA, BARSA, SAVRALA and AASA, through the auspices of the TBCSA,” says Frost.
As this issue went to press, the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) confirmed in a statement that it had questioned the effectiveness of the anti-child trafficking measures and also asked for a 12-month grace period.
The letter requesting a meeting with the minister that ASATA sent last month, together with four other major industry bodies, has been ignored – not even acknowledged.
We are hopeful that this madness will be stopped, because the process and foundation for this policy are so flawed that the courts would throw it out if it is challenged.
By Dave Marsh South African Tourism Update 7th August 2014
Liz at Lancaster has already had two cancellations from travellers who could not get visas.