July 7, 2014 -
The South African tourism department is set to introduce new regulations in October that would require travellers to the country to obtain a biometric visa in-person.
The regulations relate to introducing two new requirements for travellers to South Africa in an effort to increase security safeguards and prevent child trafficking, which is a growing epidemic in South Africa.
The first requirement states that parents must provide an unabridged birth certificate for all travelling children under 18, and both South Africans and foreign visitors to South Africa will have to provide details of the child’s father and mother.
The second requirement states that all travellers from those countries that require a visa will also have to obtain a biometric visa in person.
Representatives of South African tourism organizations including various airline companies, travel agencies, and tour and leisure groups, feel that these new rules will negatively impact the nation’s global tourism industry, and are lobbying for a 12-month delay to the new rules.
One of their greatest concerns is the effect it could have on more recent tourism growth areas from countries such as China and India.
China, for instance, only has two centers in Beijing and Shanghai where people can report for in-person biometric data capture. Most Chinese tourists who travel to South Africa live outside Shanghai and Beijing, which means that these tourists will now have to spend additional time and money just to apply for their visas, Cullinan Holdings CEO Michael Tollman told Mail & Guardian.
The government has already granted an extension until October 1 to implement the new requirements so that tourism organizations have enough time to consult with the home affairs and tourism departments without impacting local tourism.
However, many industry participants are asking the department to extend the new requirements for at least 12 months.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa, the organization that oversees business in the local tourism industry, has written to new Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, asking the department to cancel or postpone the new rules, as well as opportunities to appeal the requirements.
Gigaba said the department is still “open to further engagement on the consequences”, and that “you can never introduce new regulations that are perfect and will work”.
Meanwhile, tourism minister Derek Hanekom said last week that his department was trying to prevent any potential consequences of the new rules and that the department was in talks with counterparts in home affairs to find proper solutions.
Previously reported by BiometricUpdate.com, South African pensioners born in January will be the first able to sign up and register for smart ID cards, as the country begins to roll out its new national identity management project.