Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

SA to open for tourism again as controversial travel laws change

However, the Southern African Tourism Services Association is questioning the practicality of at least one of the relaxed regulations for children.

The home affairs department has finally rectified the contradictory, “badly communicated” advisory on the dropping of the requirement for foreign minors travelling to South Africa to boost tourism – but it could be some time before it comes into effect.

The department issued the advisory on its website on Friday, four months since the initial advisory was issued in December, but the advisory will only come into effect once loaded onto the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Information Manual Automatic (Timatic) system.

The system is able to store all the required information of each passenger flying through South Africa.

Last month, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom lamented that the initial advisory had been contradictory to the amended regulations and claimed this had contributed to the airline and travel industry’s confusion.

The advisory has been revised to:

  • if two parents are travelling from visa-free markets with their children, no documentation will be required;
  • any documentation that is required does not have to be obtained through a “sworn affidavit process”;
  • and in the event of suspicion, children who are foreign nationals and who are visa-exempt are strongly advised to carry supporting documents.

Travel and tourism supported 1.5 million jobs in SA in 2017, or 9.5% of total employment. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is estimating that by 2028, almost 2.1 million jobs in SA will depend on travel and tourism, the industry that contributes 9% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of SA.

Blessing Manale, tourism department spokesperson, said they welcomed the clarification as it had been long overdue. This was an important step as the requirement that minors present birth certificates upon arrival in the country had put a strain on tourism.

“This could not have come at a better time as tourism is a big contributor to the country’s struggling economy.”

Manale said the relaxations would no doubt ramp up tourism, saying the relaxation was part of other regulations to make travelling to South Africa as easy as possible.

The relaxed requirements for minors to present birth certificates on arrival to SA had caused untold frustrations to many families. There had been stories of children stranded at ports of entry because of the “draconian” requirements.

The Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said it was interested in the practicality of the regulation stating foreign minors from visa-exempted countries were strongly advised to carry supporting documents, as they could be asked to produce them if deemed necessary and entry could be refused if these were not submitted within 24 hours.

“We would like to know, in practical terms, what the process will be when families arrive and are refused entry for the 24 hours in which they are sourcing the documentation? Will they be allowed entry?” CEO David Frost asked.

He said these regulations were promulgated without any meaningful data on the extent of child trafficking, no economic impact study as to the damage it would do to the tourism sector and without any consultation with organised tourism.

“We turned away 13 000 passengers with pre-paid holidays in the first year alone. It is an anathema to suggest simply that these regulations now mean South Africa is in line with other countries, such as Canada and Australia,” he said.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

business news

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits