The concessions in respect of the visa regulations as announced by the Deputy President failed to safeguard the long-term security of the South African tourism industry because they neglect the implementation of electronic visas.
The failure to implement electronic visas will ultimately cost the sector by making it more difficult to attract visitors to South Africa.
Electronic visas could drastically cut the turnaround time for issuing travel documentation, and electronic visas are, in fact, more secure than existing permits as they have proved to be very effective and safe in the countries where they are in operation.
The latest figures provided by Iata provided proof of the devastating impact the visa regulations are having on the South African economy. The total revenue for all air ticketing sales to SA dropped by 40% for June 2015 compared with June 2014.
The impact of the new visa regulations on the South African economy in 2014 was a negative R2.6bn (€169m) and the loss of more than 5 800 jobs with further rises expected for this year, according to a report commissioned by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.
The report predicts that in 2015, the number of foreign tourists lost due to changes in the immigration regulations is likely to increase to 100 000, with a loss of 9 300 jobs and the total nett loss to the South African GDP of around R4.1 billion (€266m).
This begs the question, why did government not undertake any regulatory or economic impact assessments prior the implementation of these visa regulations?
The fact is, the regulations have resulted in a substantial decline in the number of tourists who visited South Africa during the first quarter of this year.
Figures released by StatsSA show that the total number of visitors is down by 7%, with certain markets being disproportionately affected. Tourists from China have declined by 38%, while the number from India dropped by 13%. This amounts to almost 12 000 fewer tourists from these two countries alone.
Tourism has a massive potential for job creation and already supports 1.5 million jobs. Further to this, it is estimated that, for every 12 tourists who come to South Africa, one job is created.
More importantly, the tourism industry creates jobs at all skill levels and is able to absorb a high number of unskilled workers.
We definitely recognise the need to protect our borders but it is vital for our economic survival that we strike a balance between this need and the need to promote South Africa as a tourism and investment destination.