Tourism num­bers to re­bound

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

THE NUM­BER of Chi­nese visi­tors to the Western Cape is ex­pected to in­crease again next year, fol­low­ing the re­lax­ation of strin­gent visa re­quire­ments that saw ar­rivals fall by a third.

James Milne of Wes­gro, the prov­ince’s trade pro­mo­tion agency, said that af­ter meet­ing 20 ma­jor Chi­nese tourism op­er­a­tors at a net­work­ing event in Beijing, their re­sponse to the changes had been “very pos­i­tive”. Milne was in China as part of a trade del­e­ga­tion.

Late last month, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it was scrap­ping the manda­tory unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate re­quire­ment for for­eign visi­tors trav­el­ling with chil­dren, in an ef­fort to boost ar­rival num­bers. It would also set up bio­met­ric test­ing at air­ports. The change was wel­comed by Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­ni­ties MEC Alan Winde, whose port­fo­lio in­cludes tourism. Winde said at the time the re­vi­sions would “go some way to re­vers­ing the down­ward trends we’ve seen”.

While the change was also wel­comed by the lo­cal tourism in­dus­try, mem­bers have since grum­bled about the slow pace of im­ple­ment­ing the new reg­u­la­tions.

The num­ber of Chi­nese trav­ellers vis­it­ing the prov­ince took two big hits in the past two years, with the first caused by last year’s Ebola out­break in west Africa. While no cases were re­ported in southern Africa, the dis­ease led to a 31 per­cent drop in Chi­nese vis­i­tor num­bers, as trav­ellers chose to avoid the con­ti­nent.

Ac­cord­ing to South African Tourism, while 70 295 Chi­nese trav­ellers (in­clud­ing from Hong Kong) vis­ited the prov­ince in 2013, only 48 365 came last year. And the fig­ures for this year are equally grim, hav­ing de­creased due to the need for unabridged birth cer­tifi­cates for peo­ple trav­el­ling with chil­dren: only 17 282 Chi­nese visi­tors came to the Western Cape in the first six months of the year.

Num­bers from Asian coun­tries also de­clined, in­clud­ing from South Korea. Some 3 350 Kore­ans vis­ited the prov­ince last year, a 28 per­cent de­cline from 2013, when 4 640 were recorded.

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