UPDATE: Free visa entry for Kiwi visitors to SA officially kicks in, with more destinations in the pipeline
South Africa plans to boost tourism by overhauling its visa regime is gaining momentum with four of seven countries previously pegged for visa waiver, now officially able to do so.
Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit for holiday, conferencing and business purposes, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said.
The unilateral decision comes as official tourism figures released in May reflected a dip in the overall number of visitors to SA from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year, normally one of the most popular times to visit.
Foreign traveller arrivals decreased by more than 10 percent between April and May 2019 alone.
Motsoaledi said the South African government was engaging with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand about a similar relaxation of entry requirements for SA citizens.
Visitors from some 82 of the 193 countries who are UN members are able to visit SA without a visa. South African can visit a total of 101 countries without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival.
The department expects to implement visa waivers for Ghana, Cuba and Principe and Sao Tome after negotiations with these countries have been concluded. These are expected to be completed by the end of August 2019 and "implementation will follow soon thereafter".
He argued the move by his department would boost tourism "and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs".
SA's economy has hit trouble, with gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019 and unemployment at a record high of 29 percent.
The government estimates there is potential to create 2.1 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028.