South African Airways announced in a letter to all its foreign based offices that travel partners that it would heed South African travel laws in terms of travelling with minors which comes into effect on 1 June, 2015.
The letter stated that, "All children under the age of 18, regardless of nationality when traveling to or from South Africa will be required to have additional documentation. South African Airways advises travel partners to review all documentation requirements when booking minors to or from South Africa.
"Travellers who arrive in South Africa without the required documentation can be detained and/or deported immediately.
The airline advised travellers to familiarise themselves with the list of documents required for travelling with minors and although the travel rules have sparked heated debate both in parliament and among key tourism stakeholders who fear a negative impact on their industries, the rules are set to stay.
Last week Thursday Tourism minister Derek Hanekom expressed concern about the effect of new visa regulations on the tourism industry but said he felt it was too early to determine its exact impact on the industry that grew by 6.6% in 2014, reportedly higher than most countries' averages.
Hanekom did however confirm South Africa had experienced negative growth over the past six months from countries affected by the regulations.
Contrary to the department of tourism's cautious approach to evaluate the future impact the new rules could have on South Africa’s tourism industry, DA Member of Parliament James Vos says the new immigration rules will cost the tourism sector over R6.8bn in losses and result in severe job cuts.
Vos said this was according to information released by the Board of Airline Representatives South Africa.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, South Africa has a lot going for it in terms of tourism investment, but new visa rules could spoil all of that as the rules could harm South Africa’s competitiveness as a destination.
When the new rules come into play, airlines will be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of these documents.
“A child denied boarding by an airline ultimately means a family can’t travel and, by industry estimates, until traveller awareness is 100%, tourist arrivals to South Africa could be negatively impacted by up to 20%,”said Vos.
Based on 2013 numbers, 536 000 foreign visitors could be denied travel, said Vos.
“The lost income to South Africa from these high value visitors could be over R6.8bn annually inevitably leading to job losses in the South African tourism sector." Vos said.