JOHANNESBURG: Indian tourists visiting South Africa fell by 15 per cent while China cut down 50 per cent of its tourists in the last year, in the wake of the rainbow nation's stringent visa regime.
Tourism from India to South Africa fell by 15 per cent in the past year and is expected to decline further amid the stringent visa rules here which were to be strictly applied from today. In the same period, tourism from China went down by 50 per cent, officials said.
A new visa regime was introduced by the South African government last year to curb child trafficking but it has not been fully implemented. As of today, parents or guardians travelling with children younger than 18 years of age have to show unabridged birth certificates of the children, including the names of both parents.
If travelling only with one parent, an affidavit of consent from the second parent is compulsory. Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Province, said he was concerned about the job losses that will result from cancellations of tours to the province.
Winde said he had received communication from the Indian consulate in the city after a tour group of 45 people from India considered cancelling the tour because a child in the group was declined a visa.
"The Indian consulate has expressed concern because in that country, passports contain the details of both parents; hence passports should clearly be accepted as an equivalent document of an unabridged birth certificate," he said.
The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association has blamed the new visa requirements for having caused a decline in drivers from key markets such as India and China. For many tourists in India and China, the additional cost of having to go to South African missions or other agencies there to apply for their visas in person would render the proposed visits unviable, it said. The chief executive of Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), Otto de Vries, said the new regulations would affect airlines and travel agents worldwide, even those who were not flying directly to South Africa.
"Air China has already postponed its proposed introduction of direct flights to Johannesburg which were due to start today and ASATA said two operators in that country have already started taking South Africa out of their brochures because of the visa requirements which were considered to be too onerous," Vries said.
The official noted that any children arriving at South African airports without the required documentation would be declared undesirable.
Following the concerns from the travel industry about the huge impact that the new regulations would have on the tourism industry, South African President Jacob Zuma has agreed to review the visa requirements, although the government had earlier claimed that the move would bring the South African visa regime in line with the systems in the UK, Canada, Australia and Schengen countries.