Visas and visitors

2015-06-11 06:01

THE tourism industry and the Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, have expressed deep concern relating to the visa requirements for foreign nationals coming to South Africa.

Although yet to be fully implemented our, visa requirements have been slated as being onerous and impractical to the extent that foreign visitation to our country could reduce as opposed to actually growing.

Based on Tourism KwaZulu-Natal’s Statistics of our Tourism Sector 2014, nationally we hosted some 9.62 million foreign­ visitors and about 12 million domestic travellers (25.2 million trips).

What is interesting is that the figures indicate that the per capita spend per day for foreigners is suggested at R870 per day in comparison to R210 per day for South Africans - the latter amount being as a result of the high numbers staying with family and friends.

On the basis of the above it is clear that the tourism revenue yield (direct spend of R70.3 billion) from our foreign­ markets is very significant and any stringent visa regulations could dent the “export” earnings derived from our foreign guests.

In the Western Cape this is of particular concern as that province has a juicy slice of our foreign market. When one is very reliant on overseas visitation an element of risk exists - visa obstructions, crime-related publicity, a global catastrophe and war all create market reticence for long-haul travel.

Here on the South Coast, I have always held the belief that if we look after and market for our domestic tourist (who is a more resilient traveller) we will sustain our bread and butter tourism economy. Overseas visitors (about 10-15% of our market) are, in truth, the valued cherry on top.

Our marketing ventures are geared to retain and grow our South Africa visitor and strategically target special interest niches from abroad. We are fortunate that we are not overly challenged by this visa saga – certainly and understandably the Western Cape is going all out to ensure that the regulations are amended.

Ease of access to a destination is one of the most critical elements in determining where a tourist decides to go - I trust that our authorities will consider the tourism sector’s submissions and find a win-win situation for our industry and country.

So in the meantime, paradise of open for business - no visa (for SA folk) required

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