SA tourism takes a nose-dive – visas to blame

10 months ago written by

Visa bugger-ups in several source markets continue to bedevil incoming tourism to South Africa.

SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona says arrivals from New Zealand had taken a nosedive in the first six months of 2017 because of new visa requirements in that market, while arrivals from Nigeria were being seriously constrained by a backlog of visa applications.

Speaking to Tourism Update at the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) Africa 2017 in Cape Town, Ntshona said: “We are connecting with (the Department of) Home Affairs to help us to start processing some of this backlog. We are losing a lot of potential tourists to the likes of Dubai, who are issuing visas on arrival.”

Meanwhile, he said, incoming tourism growth – for the most part – was “right on target” for the first six months of 2017. Notably, arrivals from Brazil and Argentina were up 80% for the period, although coming from a low base. This was thanks to increased connectivity and more SAT investment in those markets in terms of visibility and packaging. The Brazilian real had also strengthened against the rand, making South Africa more affordable.

Furthermore, arrivals from Europe grew by about 2%; US arrivals were up; and Australian arrivals were holding strong, he added.

However, arrivals from SADC region were below target in the first part of the first six months, mainly because Easter fell later than usual, however arrivals had levelled out again towards the middle of the year.

He said domestic tourism was doing well as South Africans took more frequent, but shorter holidays.

Meanwhile, Ntshona said SA Tourism had not been able to verify which routes SAA intended to cut as part of its latest turnaround strategy. “We are speaking to them, but nobody is committing or confirming anything. We are definitely formalising a much closer relationship with SAA. We want to make sure that we have one seamless ‘SA Incorporated’ approach. We are encouraged to see a new ceo at SAA. Hopefully he will be a lot more open to collaboration and we can start to fight together as one brand,” Ntshona said.

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