Wesgro - Cape Town and the Western Cape’s Official Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency has welcomed the amendments that were announced by South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, to the existing visa regime.
“Ease of travel and movement across borders is a fundamental building block of the global economy.
“We live in an integrated world, where goods, services, supply chains, business, research, entertainment and education cut across national borders.
“For South Africa to remain relevant and competitive in this integrated global economy we cannot erect barriers for visitors, we need to make it easier for people to come to South Africa while maintaining tight security at the border,” commented Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris.
Many of the changes implemented in 2014 had a negative impact on foreign visitor numbers, not only affecting tourism, but also business travel and the ability of companies to attract niche critical skills to grow and be globally competitive.
According to Harris, the changes will have a noticeable and positive impact on tourism, trade and investment in the Western Cape and South Africa, by increasing the number of countries that will be visa exempt, particularly the Middle East, will help unlock new tourism markets for our province and country, helping boost visitor numbers.
“The implementation of 3 to 10 year multiple visas especially for China and India is critical for the growth of our economy, with China boasting the 2nd largest economy in the world and the biggest tourism spend globally, and India ranked the 7th largest economy with a rapidly growing tourism spend - ranked 17th according to UNWTO,” said Harris.
He said waiving the requirement for visa applications to be made in person in India and China will significantly increase ease of travel – travellers wishing to visit South Africa currently have to apply in person often having to travel great distances to the very few visa application stations in these large countries.
Harris said the relaxation of documentary requirements for minors travelling with foreign nationals – the strict requirements for parental consent and unabridged birth certificates caused major upsets for bona fide travellers visiting South Africa with children.
“The review of the critical skills list and offer of permanent residence for foreign students studying critical skills degrees is an important measure to ensure that South Africa remains a strong contender in the global skills economy, and potentially a big boost for our universities and tertiary education institutions.
“Steps announced to ease congestion at ports of entry particularly land ports could have a significant impact on South Africa’s trade with the rest of Africa and ease of doing business on the continent; and, implementation of e-visas and e-gates will ease congestion and enhance efficiency at borders, making South Africa a more attractive destination to visit and do business with.”
Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille said: “Cape Town welcomes the visa relaxation as it will encourage more visitors to the city and South Africa.
“This will lead to stronger trade ties with countries and cities from across the world. We know the world owes us nothing and we have to make it easier for tourists and investors to visit our shores, while we build a globally competitive forward-looking Cape Town.
“Last week, the World Bank released a report that showed Cape Town is the top metro in South Africa when it comes to making it easier for businesses to obtain construction permits and getting electricity to their premises.”
Minister Alan Winde added: “Tourism is a vital part of the Western Cape economy and the previous visa regulations had a damaging impact on the sector. The changes announced today, if properly implemented, will help to stabilize the sector and ensure that we can focus on growing the economy and creating more jobs.”