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South Africa tourism numbers fall on visa restrictions.

Aug 13, 2015 With its beautiful beaches and natural beauty, South Africa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, South Africa’s tourism industry generated $39 billion in 2013, accounting for 9.7 percent of the country’s GDP.

The tourism industry has experienced steady growth since the end of apartheid in 1994  with international arrivals reaching nearly 15 million in 2013, from 3.6 million.

However, last year, South Africa implemented new rules that required visitors to provide biometric data when applying for visas. The nation also demands that visitors carry an original unabridged birth certificate or a certified copy.

According to industry stakeholders, the regulations have had a negative effect on the tourism sector as the number of visitors has declined.

Enver Duminy, Chief Executive of Cape Town Tourism had this to say:

“For me that concern is not about that loss only there is also the opportunity costs of those people who were intending on travelling to Cape Town but because of administration and additional burden of having to go through regulation requirements they have opted to go to other destinations…But where the real impact is being felt is with the smaller businesses within tourism. This week I even spoke to a number of those members who were actually in tears because some of them were having to close down their business because nothing is coming and for me I think it hits home of what that impact is,”

Sabu Siyaka,a local tour operator and restaurant manager in Cape Town says his business ihas taken a serious downward trend since the visa rules were put in place.

“We work with a diverse market because within all the sectors in the tourism industry, especially the destination management companies because we rely on these big tour operators so we did not get a single booking to be honest the only sector that is keeping us alive is the student market,” Siyaka said.

CEO of Thompsons Africa Linda Pampallis, pointed out that the new visa rules are driving away visitors from lucrative new markets on the continent.

“The visa regulation affects to a large extent the new markets and here we had huge opportunities; we did have those opportunities but they are severely hindered at the moment and those markets are the African market. Africa still has a huge potential for tourism to South Africa and for a Kenyan or a Nigerian or Ugandan etcetera those countries to get visas they are finding it very difficult,”

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