The release of the Tourism 2016 report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) this week showed that although there was a strong rebound in last year due to the weak rand, which made a holiday in South Africa very cheap for an overseas tourist, the country was still suffering from the imposition of more stringent visa requirements.
The number of overseas tourists, in particular those from South Africa’s BRICS partners, remained below their 2013 levels.
New visa regulations from October 2014 that required an in-person visit for biometric data to South African consulates for visitors from non-visa exempt countries such as China, Russia and India had an impact, but there were other factors at play as only one (The Netherlands) of the top ten overseas source countries showed an increase in 2014 compared with 2013.
The visa requirements were relaxed and the capacity to process them was improved in 2015 and 2016 in a belated attempt to mitigate the effects on the tourism industry. As ten tourists are estimated to create one job, the near 100,000 drop in BRIC tourist numbers from 359,429 in 2013 to 259,444 in 2016 has cost some 10,000 jobs at a time when the unemployment rate exceeds 27 per cent.
The Department of Home Affairs administers the visa requirements. Several countries such as Brazil and most European countries are exempt from visas provided they stay less than 90 days.