The Departments of Tourism and Home Affairs are setting up a dedicated team of officials to fast-track progress of the easing of visa requirements for visitors, in a bid to increase tourist arrivals to South Africa.

The announcement was made on Wednesday (May 2) by Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, and Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, reports Eyewitness News.

On Wednesday, the Ministers had their first meeting since their return to their portfolios during the Cabinet reshuffle in late February by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Gigaba said the meeting covered the following points, all of which are currently in progress: simplifying travel with minors, easing of visa requirements for residents of Brazil, India, Russia, China, and South Africa (Brics) countries, as well as the introduction of electronic visas (e-visas) for incoming tourists.

“We have, therefore, agreed that we are going to establish a joint working team, composed of respective deputy directors general who are going to meet regularly and facilitate regular feedback to both of us jointly so that we can review the progress being made in this regard and take whatever executive decisions are required,” commented Gigaba.

CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), David Frost, is optimistic. He said the tourism industry had looked into the issue, delving particularly into international best practice.

“What became apparent is that we needed to find an equitable solution,” said Frost. “Elsewhere in the world, people are vigilant, but they do not apply the heavy-handed approach of making airline check-in staff your front-line immigration officers.”

He went on to explain that internationally, there was a more sophisticated, nuanced and targeted approach to preventing child trafficking that included more specific policing and traveller profiling.