Tourism industry role players and international airlines on Wednesday called for the relaxed visa rules to be implemented before the busy tourist season starts.
The tourism industry had said the requirements meant they were losing millions as tourists simply went to other countries. The relaxed rules coupled with the weakened Rand could entice tourists and benefit the struggling industry.
Virgin Atlantic’s Liezl Gericke says, “If it happens soon, we can still work very hard to save the summer season. It’s a huge opportunity for us as a European carrier to try to maximise on inbound tourism over the December/January period.”
“The South African rand is really struggling and this overturn could not have come at a more opportune time when we can really capitalise on international tourism into the country.”
Last week New World Immigration reported on the proposed changes. Proposed changes will include:
Within 3 months:
• Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports.
• Look at introducing an accredited tourism company programme for countries like China, India and Russia.
• Consider a long-term multiple entry visa for a period exceeding three months and up to three years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics.
• Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours.
• Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.
Within a year:
• Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana.
• Consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries.
• Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists.
• Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10 year multiple entry visitor’s visa.
• Open two business visa facilitation centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton.
• Print parents’ details in their passports so that they do not have to carry birth certificates.
Long term changes:
• Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports.
• Upgrade advance passenger processing systems and implement passenger name record, to enhance risk assessment.
• Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.