South African politician calls for e-visas, biometrics on arrival
In a briefing of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, Economic Opportunities Minister for the Western Cape, Alan Winde, emphasized the inherent need to revise South Africa’s new visa regulations and suggested that the country introduce biometric-based e-visas, according to a report by Traveller 24.
Winde discussed how the new strict rules have negatively impacted the South Africa’s tourism industry, along with the regional economy as a whole.
He pointed out that while South Africa was essentially closing off tourism opportunities, several other countries in Africa and around the world were deploying new technologies and processes to encourage tourism, such as e-visas, visas on arrival and biometrics on arrival.
He said that one of the findings of the Western Cape Government’s Red Tape Reduction Unit into the visa rules that have been implemented over the past year, was to potentially adopt similar processes for South Africa, especially for tourists from BRICS nations and other African countries.
China has been negatively impacted by the new rules, particularly in regards to the requirement for biometrics on arrival.
There are currently only visa facilitation centres in Beijing and Shanghai, which makes it extremely difficult for anyone living outside of these cities to apply for a travel visa to South Africa.
Additionally, Winde states that both Kenya and Australia were greatly benefiting from offering visas on arrival for Chinese tourists, with trade between Australia and China strengthening, and Air China recently offering direct flights to Kenya for the first time.
Two rules in particular have had a serious impact on South Africa’s tourism industry, including travellers now being required to appear in person to provide their biometric data, implemented in May 2014, and the birth certificate rule that came into effect on June 1st.
Winde argued that if these regulations are not amended, South Africa will no longer be a popular family travel destination.
The rule was initially implemented to curb child trafficking through South Africa’s ports of entry and exit, however, Winde said that this is a significant misstep by the department of home affairs and that these measures will have no impact on the issue.
Winde said that he and his team would continue to convince the department of home affairs to reconsider the new rules, but explained that there were many ways for the province to contribute to promote tourism.
Rodney Lentit, a member of the provincial parliament recommended that the Cape Town International Airport set up a help desk to help tourists who are looking to visit South Africa with the new visa regulations upon entering the country.
Winde agreed that this would help inform international travellers about the new visa regulations on the tourism sector in South Africa.
Previously reported, the South African government said it will implement biometric regulations for India’s visa applicants by the end of the year, as soon as it develops the proper infrastructure,