Minister warns on new SA visa, immigration rules

Posted: July 13, 2014 in travel & tourism

satGrowth in the tourism sector, with its substantial job creation spin-offs, could act as a partial antidote to the sluggishness of the economy, according to the newly-appointed South Africa Tourism minister, Derek Hanekom.

However, the minster warned that the hospitality sector’s positive effect could be undermined by South Africa’s new visa and immigration regulations. Hanekom told Parliament’s tourism portfolio committee that the visa and immigration regulations issued six weeks ago by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba could have a negative effect on the sector.

“It could potentially have a negative impact on tourism. We have to make it as easy as possible for person to come to our country,” said Mr Hanekom. “We are dealing with a very, very competitive international environment and people have choices. At this stage where we are getting a good share, with close to 10-million arrivals annually.

“We can increase that share but if we do the wrong thing that share can drop. We don’t want to slip backwards; we want to maintain it and we want to grow it.”

The minister stressed that it was “critically important” to remove unnecessary bottlenecks and said discussions were taking place with the Department of Home Affairs.

“Even in these difficult times where we are struggling to achieve the kind of growth levels that we would like to achieve, the good news for the tourism sector is that it has been on a steady growth path for a very long time,” Mr Hanekom said, adding: “Since 1990 the sector had expanded by about 200% while gross domestic product (GDP) had only grown by 74%. “The tourism sector therefore makes an important contribution to our growth targets.”

Tourism’s direct contribution to GDP has risen from 2.8% ($8.33bn) in 2011 to 3% ($9.33bn) in 2012, though it could be as high as 9%-10% if the indirect contribution is taken into account.

The sector accounts for more than 610 000 jobs, or 4.6% of direct employment – or as much as 1.4-million if indirect employment is taken into account. A target of 225 000 new direct jobs by 2019 has been set. The sector is also well suited to fostering the development of small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs.

South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima said a key focus would be growing the domestic market, with the aim of increasing the number of domestic tourists to 18-million over the next five years. The agency had an “aggressive” strategy to grow the African market and planned to have five marketing offices in key African countries by 2020. There is an office in Nigeria.


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