The confusion around unabridged birth certificates (UBCs) will soon be rectified, with a new advisory to be sent out soon by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs.

So said South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, speaking at the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa Summit on February 28.

Talking to representatives of the collective aviation and related industries, Hanekom addressed the issue of UBCs and visas, saying that amendments to the UBC regulations late last year were badly communicated by the Department of Home Affairs, and airlines have been confused, as the advisory issued by the DHA contradicted the revised regulation. “The next step is that Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) Chairman, Blacky Komani, will meet with the DHA’s Director-General, who has undertaken to change the advisory note to bring it in line with what the regulations actually say. A new advisory note will be issued very soon – in some aspects, the situation has got worse [due to the confusing communication], so we have got to change it quickly.”

He added that e-visas would be introduced during the course of this year, as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa. “A pilot is being considered by the DHA, to test introduction. The intention is to introduce the e-visa during the course of 2019, before end of year – let’s hope that happens.”

Komani explained: “The DHA has committed to do a pilot on e-visas in New Zealand, and by end of April we should know if we have e-visas or not. It’s a matter that TBCSA is fighting for and leading. I think we’re making progress.”

“Tourism and aviation are joined at the hip,” said Hanekom. “Without tourists, flights are empty, and without flights, tourists cannot come into the country,” so the lifting of what industry stakeholders are experiencing as disempowering barriers to tourism is essential.

The Minister added that with South Africa’s excellent tourism attractions, supported by good road, air and communications infrastructures, there was an urgency to grow the India and China markets. The potential for outbound Chinese tourists is estimated to be 200 million by 2020 (currently at 160 million). “If we put shoulders to the wheel and aim to get one-third of 1% of that market, we could nett 600 000 of these tourists,” he said.

“E-visas and beefing up traveller safety require urgent attention to increase our share of this market,” he said.