CityPress - - Business - TINA WEAVIND busi­ness@city­

New visa reg­u­la­tions are not hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on tourism. In fact, tourism will most likely even im­prove be­cause of them. So says May­ihlome Tsh­wete, spokesper­son for Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, who was adamant this week that the out­cry was en­tirely un­war­ranted.

He said the coun­try’s borders were still por­ous de­spite the tight­en­ing of visa re­quire­ments, but aban­don­ing se­cu­rity would hit tourism se­verely.

“If a bomb goes off in Sand­ton, what’s go­ing to suf­fer the most? The tourism sec­tor,” Tsh­wete said this week.

At the be­gin­ning of last month, two new visa laws kicked in for trav­ellers.

First, any child cross­ing into or out of the coun­try is now re­quired to have an unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate and, where the child is trav­el­ling with one par­ent, con­sent from the other par­ent must be given.

Sec­ond, any­one ap­ply­ing for a visa to South Africa must now do so in per­son to have their bio­met­ric data cap­tured.

But un­til the end of Septem­ber at the ear­li­est, the hard ev­i­dence from Stats SA about the im­pact of these reg­u­la­tions won’t be avail­able.

And even then, the rea­son for any change will be largely open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion and qual­i­ta­tive.

How­ever, apart from the home af­fairs depart­ment, no one be­lieves these “dra­co­nian mea­sures” are go­ing to be of any ben­e­fit – even to chil­dren vul­ner­a­ble to hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Tourism Min­is­ter Derek Hanekom has gone deaf­en­ingly mute on the topic since ad­dress­ing re­porters on the side­lines of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) last month.

At the time, Hanekom boldly said the reg­u­la­tions needed to be re­viewed, and that they were hurt­ing South Africa. He noted that tourism fig­ures had dropped off markedly. He said, specif­i­cally, that Air China was re­con­sid­er­ing flights to South Africa, partly be­cause of the new visa re­quire­ments.

City Press was this week un­able to make any con­tact with Hanekom. Queries sent to the depart­ment were not re­sponded to.

And since his out­spo­ken state­ment at the WEF, no fur­ther men­tion of a re­view of the reg­u­la­tion has been made. Tsh­wete said there would not be one ei­ther. “The laws are not up for de­bate. We have passed that point. We are not go­ing to change our minds.”

The Tourism Busi­ness Coun­cil of SA re­leased a re­port last month es­ti­mat­ing that the new reg­u­la­tions would cost South Africa R1.4 bil­lion and cut tourist num­bers by 100 000 this year.

But Tsh­wete was dis­mis­sive of such pro­jec­tions: “The num­bers keep on chang­ing. How do you ar­rive at these num­bers any­way?”

The tourism sec­tor, which now con­trib­utes about 9% of the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, has been the fastest­grow­ing in the coun­try, spurred on by the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Home af­fairs di­rec­tor-gen­eral Mkuseli Apleni ad­mit­ted last month that about 20 000 fewer peo­ple had come into South Africa be­tween June 1 and 22 com­pared with the same three weeks last year. But this wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the fault of the new reg­u­la­tions – it could have been due to eco­nomic fac­tors or per­cep­tions about Ebola.

But Apleni em­pha­sised that the num­ber of peo­ple ar­riv­ing from the US and the UK‚ re­spon­si­ble for the fourth- and fifth-largest ar­rival num­bers in South Africa‚ had re­mained sta­ble.

This week, Tsh­wete said the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing from France had even in­creased.

“They have all the doc­u­ments for their kids [in any case],” Tsh­wete said.

Paddy Brearley, MD of Legacy Ho­tels and Re­sorts, which owns and man­ages a col­lec­tion of high-end ho­tels, bush lodges and re­sorts, said this week the com­pany had noted a 75% down­turn in Chi­nese de­mand from Septem­ber.

Brearley said Legacy’s Euro­pean mar­ket had not

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