South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, says increasing jobs and ease of access in the tourism sector is possible.

“Whatever we do in tourism, regarding increased arrivals, translates into a large number of jobs as it is an employment-intensive industry. It is not difficult. If we do the right things, it is achievable,” says Hanekom.

During the Power Lunch interview with CNBC Africa on March 9, Hanekom was responding to a question on the State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which President Cyril Ramaphosa alluded to doubling jobs in tourism from 700 000 to more than half a million.

Minister Hanekom also referred to the call by the President during his SONA to grow the economy by removing regulation barriers. He said if South Africa could make it simpler for international tourists to visit, the country would see an increase in tourist arrivals.

“Our challenges are: intensified marketing and making it easier for tourist to get to South Africa. This will translate into a large number of jobs, which will make a huge difference in [tackling] our unemployment,” said Hanekom.

He went on to emphasise the importance of discussions between the Departments of Tourism and transport on sufficient airlinks and direct routes between SA and other African countries, as part of making it easier and more affordable for people to visit SA.

As part of reducing barriers for travellers, Hanekom also said engagement with the Department of Home Affairs was critical in three areas – the regulations impacting on minors visiting SA; ease of obtaining a South African travel visa; and reviewing the countries that need visas for travel to SA.

“When the visa requirement for Russia was waived, we saw an increase of over 50% of travellers from Russia to South Africa,” said Hanekom, adding that when visas were introduced for New Zealand travellers to SA, there was a 17% decline in visitors. “The only reason for the decline in the numbers from New Zealand was the visa requirement. Therefore the engagement with Home Affairs is critically important,” concluded Hanekom.

This was recently reinstated by a poll conducted by Tourism Update, where readers voted on whether the implementation of electronic visas (e-visas) would have a positive impact on arrivals into SA. 89% voted ‘Yes’, whilst only 11% voted ‘No’.