South Africa’s new visa regulations are destroying opportunities and killing hope in the tourism industry, according to Western Cape minister of economic opportunities Alan Winde. Independent research has found that South Africa’s new visa regulations could cost the economy over 21 000 jobs and up to R10bn in lost income. Winde said on Monday that the latest trends in global travel numbers clearly demonstrate the disastrous impact of South Africa’s visa regulations on the country’s tourism sector. In his view two reports released this week – the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO’s) Tourism Highlights 2015 Edition and Statistics South Africa’s Tourism and Migration: February 2015 – provide clear evidence that SA is closing its doors to tourists.
h3. Facts & Figures
The UNWTO report found that China is the world’s top spender in international tourism. Chinese tourists spent $165bn during overseas trips in 2014, a 27% increase from 2013. The report found that growth in tourism arrival prospects for 2015 are strongest for Asia and the Pacific and the Americas, with expected growth of 4% to 5%. For Europe expected growth of 3% to 4% is forecast, for the Middle East 2% to 5% and for Africa 3% to 5%. Between 2010 and 2030, arrivals in emerging destinations – at growth of 4.4% per year – are expected to rise at twice the rate of those in advanced economies. The market share of emerging economies surged from 30% in 1980 to 45% in 2014, and is expected to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals.
International tourist arrivals to Africa increased by 2% and to sub-Saharan Africa by 3%. In contrast, arrivals to South Africa were flat. At the same time tourism in Madagascar grew by 13%, in Mauritius by 5%, in Zimbabwe by 3% and in the Seychelles by 1%. Stats SA’s Tourism and Migration report found that in February 2015, 1 133 411 foreign tourists arrived at South Africa’s ports of entry. A comparison between February 2014 and February 2015 indicates that the volume of arrivals and departures increased for South African residents and decreased for foreign travellers.
Data indicates that the United Kingdom (23.1%), Germany (14.7%), the United States of America (9.3%), France (6.8%), the Netherlands (5.4%), China (3.9%), Australia (3.1%), Switzerland (2.7%), Sweden (2.7%), and Canada (2.6%) were the ten leading overseas countries visiting South Africa in February 2015. Tourists from these ten countries constituted 74.4% of all tourists from overseas countries. The overall results show that 4.4% of tourists were aged under 15 years, 89.3% were aged between 15 and 64 years and 6.3% were aged 65 years and older.
In February 2014, 11 457 Chinese tourists visited South Africa compared to 7 748 in February 2015. Between February 2014 and February 2015, arrivals from India fell from 6 707 to 4 989. Over the same period, arrivals from Argentina tumbled from 1 698 to 422. Figures show 3 245 Brazilian tourists arrived in South Africa in February 2014, compared with 2 260 in February 2015.
Destinations across the world are paying attention to these numbers. Australia has just announced a 10-year multiple entry visa for Chinese visitors, while China’s Southern Airlines is set to launch direct flights to Kenya in August. At the same time Air China has postponed the launch of direct flights to SA. In Winde’s view this move was caused, in part, by SA’s onerous visa regulations.
h3. “Industry Goals are threatened”
“The goals we have set for the tourism sector are being threatened by the new visa regulations,” said Winde. “Put simply, we have deliberately excluded ourselves from this massive opportunity. “In his budget speech earlier this year, National Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom stated the target of attracting 12 million international tourist arrivals to South Africa by 2018,” said Winde. In the Western Cape, just over 200 000 residents are employed in formal jobs in the tourism sector.
“I note National Cabinet’s announcement that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba will head an inter-ministerial team to look into objections against the regulations. There’s one fatal flaw, this amounts to the minister investigating himself. Instead, he should simply look at the numbers and listen to the industry,” said Winde.