Airlines warn SA of potential tourism disaster

Cape Town - Twenty international airlines from countries like Rwanda, the United Kingdom, China and Mauritius have joined the fray in warning government about the serious implications the new visa requirements could have for South Africa as a tourism destination. 

EWN reports the airlines have written an open letter to government stating that “the department of home affairs is trying to solve the right problems in the wrong way and that the new rule appears to be based on incorrect information”.

The new unabridged birth certificate requirement for children travelling to South Africa comes into effect on 1 October 2014 – virtually rendering international passports useless for any person under the age of 18. 

The report quotes Virgin Atlantic's Simon Newton-Smith, who says the “requirements for under eighteens to travel with an unabridged birth certificate is such a unique requirement and is set to be a PR and tourism disaster for South Africa”.

At the beginning of August, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba together with newly appointed Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom confirmed the rules would be going ahead, saying the new requirements are completely reasonable and aimed at regulating movement into and out of South Africa and ensuring national security. 

When the visa comes into effect tourism experts fear the issue could be compounded in that South Africa’s main source markets do not require a visa.

Tourists will depart for SA armed only with a passport and since there is no need to have a visa, the likelihood exists that the unabridged birth certificate requirement could go unnoticed and those travelling with children will be denied boarding when their journey has reached a point of no return - setting in motion a number of negative consequences.  
Tourism Update reports SATSA is lobbying for a 12 month postponement. “To this end we will be working closely with our fellow associations, ASATA, BARSA, SAVRALA and AASA, through the auspices of the TBCSA,” said David Frost, SATSA CEO.

The report also states the letter requesting a meeting with the minister that ASATA sent in July, together with four other major industry bodies, has been ignored. 

Gigaba who says the new regulations are not too onerous and parents can use their country's equivalent of the documents while travelling, states the department is still prepared to negotiate about most of these new rules.

“What we will not discuss is the requirement that people applying for visas to come to South Africa must do so physically at our offices.”

To view the new regulations, click here.