We still don’t have true e-visa system in place, we only have an online system – Fedhasa
Persistent glitches delayed the electronic processing of tourists' documents wishing to travel to South Africa.
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Almost a year after government promised to introduce a new e-visa system – planned to be rolled out in 15 countries to provide the much-needed catalyst to attract tourists to South Africa – the tourism industry yesterday expressed unhappiness about the status quo having remained.
While Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana last year announced that the new visa regime would go live in March 2022, leading tourism industry players – the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) – said persistent glitches delayed the electronic processing of tourists’ documents wishing to travel to South Africa.
Home Affairs director-general Tommy Makhode refuted the charges, saying over 70% of the globe was free to visit South Africa “without a visa”.
“Out of concern for not making our borders porous to some individuals and certain countries with countries, the department of home affairs has a very stringent regime on e-visa, which boils down to the adjudication process.
“We have instances where some individuals come into the country for a specific period, overstay their welcome and our already stretched immigration officials have to look for them, because of their being in the country illegally.
“No country can allow such a situation,” said Makhode.
Some countries have been red-flagged “out of concern for being a risk to South Africa”.
This, as Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson, blamed Home Affairs for its visa-processing system: “Unfortunately we still don’t have a true e-visa system in place in South Africa, which would be able to facilitate a smooth and easy influx of international visitors into the country.
“What we have is merely an online system.
“We hope that Home Affairs will implement a true e-visa system. The tourism and hospitality industry is very keen on playing a part in assisting with this, because it is a major catalyst towards attracting more international travellers to the country.
“The more international tourists we can get to our shores, the more jobs we can create in South Africa.
“The hospitality and tourism is the single easiest biggest industry, which could make a huge dent in our unemployment crisis in South Africa.
“We need each government department to look at facilitating the smooth running of tourism.”
With Australian tourism numbers having grown to surpass those of South Africa, due to a smooth visa processing system, Satsa CEO David Frost said: “South Africa grew tourist arrivals from 44 140 in 2008 to 106 744 in 2012 – translating into an annual growth of 142%.
“From this record figure, we declined to 93 428 in 2018 – a 12% decline in six years.
“A combination of visa easing and a solid marketing is needed – the opposite of what we do in SA.”
Added Frost: “We currently have visa challenges in quickly processing visas of tourists from Eastern Europe.
“For example, how do you explain that people from Romania, wishing to travel to South Africa, first have to visit Hungary where the SA embassy is, before coming here?
“Travelling to Hungary first before coming here, demonstrates inefficiency in the system.
“Despite the Indian tourism market being big for South Africa, people still have to apply in the same old way – showing a failure of government to keep up with the times.”
The envisaged e-visa application process was set to take about 20 minutes, if the applicant has the necessary supporting documents ready to submit.
Hariprasad Viswanathan, regional head of VFS Global sub-Saharan Africa, said the opening of international borders, the lifting of travel restrictions, the reviving of international flights and reopening of on-campus classes by overseas universities were “the major contributors to the current increase in visa applications and outbound traffic from South Africa this year”.
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