Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


SA tourism to return pre-pandemic levels quicker despite ‘undesirable tourists’ saga

Home Affairs Minister says his department has no intention of destroying the tourism sector.


South Africa has had consistent growth in the tourism sector in recent years – and with Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi dispelling fears of tourists being deterred by visa issues, the industry is set to make it to its pre-pandemic levels quicker, say industry leaders.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday after the department came under fire for a circular issued in December, Motsoaledi said the department had no intention of destroying the tourism sector by forcing foreign nationals awaiting visa outcomes to leave South Africa.

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The directive detailed requirements for tourists holding short-term visas issued up to 30 November last year.

It mandated that people who had applied for visa renewals, but had not received outcomes by 23 February this year, had to leave SA by 29 February.

This was to avoid them being classified as “undesirable” due to processing delays.

Home Affairs circular ‘unfortunate’

Motsoaledi acknowledged the confusion around the directive and said it was a “misunderstanding”.

Despite efforts to clarify the matter during parliamentary sessions and the State of the Nation Address debates, some stakeholders were not convinced by the explanations.

Motsoaledi said: “It was a very unfortunate circular that should not have been issued because matters it was trying to clarify could have easily been addressed in the normal course of operations.

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“In case your visa expires before the department has responded to your application, that receipt will act as an extension of your visa until such time you get a response – positive or negative from the department.

“We approached [Tourism] Minister [Patricia] De Lille to find out how many people approached her as a consequence of action emanating from this circular. She said only one case was referred to her department.”

Motsoaledi said the circular had not created major problems with law enforcement for tourists who faced this predicament.

SA’s reputation damaged?

SA Tour Operators’ Nomzamo Dube said “this did not affect tourism as badly as people thought, but we are aware that it might have affected SA’s reputation – with the country ultimately being labelled as anti-tourist”.

“This clarification will maybe remedy that. For now all we can do is hope this is clear to all parties involved and that those who potentially want to visit SA don’t buy into the “undesirable tourists” news. But for most tourists, they understand the rules and adhere to them,” she said.

The South African Township and Village Tourism Organisation (Satovito) noted that feedback from the National Tourism Stakeholder Forum indicated positive growth numbers in the industry compared to the previous year.

“As the leading township and village tourism organisation, Satovito has observed an increase in domestic tourism activities in villages, townships and dorpies, emphasising the appeal of authentic South African experiences,” it said.

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