Ineng recently held an Entrepreneurs in Public Policy event at the Cape Sun Hotel in central Cape Town.
Summary of Issues
The Tourism and Business Council of South Africa has released a study on the impact of the new immigration regulations. It shows that the country may lose 270 000 international tourists, translating to 21 000 jobs lost annually due to the regulation. The total cost to the country in losses amount to R9.7 billion.
The issue centres largely on visitors to South Africa now being required to apply for their visas in person – an additional and unnecessary travel expense for those who do not live near South African embassies, consulates and visa centres. In the case of many countries, the private sector can run visa centres on behalf of a government who do not wish to introduce e-visas for certain countries.
Reports from China, one of South Africa’s largest tourism markets, confirmed that marketing packages relating to South African tourist destinations came to an end on 1 October this year, due to this added difficulty to get a visa Before the new laws came into effect China had become South Africa’s fourth-biggest overseas tourism market, up from eighth place two years ago.
“Direct employment in the tourism sector, as a percentage of overall employment in the country, is around 4.5 percent,” as the national Department of Tourism has demonstrated.
Tourism is located in the National Development Plan as a key job driver for the economy. If it continues growing, without restrictive visa laws it could support 1 in 10 jobs. A study by the University of Cape Town shed light on the potential for township tourism, which received a catalytic boost during the World Cup.
The potential of tourism for South African entrepreneurs is massive and the right government laws on visas can continue to boost the incredible potential the country holds for economic growth and job creation through this industry.
- South Africa should adopt electronic visas (e-visas), allowing applications online for visas as opposed to in-person interviews at consulates abroad, which can be difficult to get to – proving a disincentive for tourists. E-visas also cut down turn-around processing times and have proved very effective, and more secure, in similar markets like Turkey.
- Private companies should be allowed to assist investors with business and corporate visas that do not require biometric validation. By doing so, entrepreneurs will continue to source private investors and group tour bookings to help facilitate both foreign direct investment and tourism.
- National Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom’s studies into e-visas should be supported. Recommendations to Home Affairs from the Department of Tourism for the use of e-visas should be seriously considered.