In response to the DA’s Shadow Minister of Tourism, James Vos’s, call for government to abandon its inter-Ministerial review on the visa regulations, SATSA would like to note that while we are grateful for the pressure opposition parties, the media and private sector have placed on the Department of Home Affairs, it would be a mistake to assume that the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, is not taking any action.
We have been in constant communication with Minister of Tourism since the regulations were first announced. In no way is he in denial in terms of their impact and he has expressed his concerns not only publicly in the media, but also in Parliament. Tackling these regulations is a process, and we are confident that the Minister is working through all the channels available to him to call for a full review of the regulations.
That being said, urgent action is required, especially in light of the systematic decline in tourist arrivals out of the BRIC source markets since the advent of the visa regulations in the third quarter of 2014.
For example arrivals from Russia, where prospective tourists have to travel to Moscow to apply for a visa, have plummeted by 46,5% in the first quarter of 2015. The decline in arrivals from China for the same period was down 37,9%. This is in stark contrast to the 235% increase in arrivals from China achieved between 2009 and 2013.
Furthermore, our competitor destination are currently seeing strong growth out of these markets. Chinese arrivals to Australia increased by 18,2% in February 2015 and similarly, Chinese arrivals to Mauritius in the first five months of 2015 grew by 26,6%. It is no co-incidence that both these countries have simplified their visa regime, without compromising security, in order to attract increased tourist receipts.
While a review on the implementation of the regulations (rather than the regulations in their entirety) is not first prize, we are still welcoming of any foot in the door and the opportunity to engage with Home Affairs on this matter, even if it is in the form of an Inter-Ministerial review focusing on the implementation of the regulations. SATSA is working closely with the Minister of Tourism to ensure that he has all the information and data required to make a strong case on behalf of our industry.
To achieve this, we are currently surveying our members to assess the impact of the regulations. This evidence will play a vital role in terms of any engagement with Home Affairs going forward.