Despite numerous obstacles, such as the lack of direct flights and the much-publicised visa frustrations, TourismUpdate.co.za reports that the number of Indian travellers to South Africa is showing a great recovery.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India recently indicated that South Africa was among the list of favoured destinations for the upcoming summer, along with Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, the Maldives and China. Local and Indian wholesalers agree that demand for South Africa is bouncing back but that it could do even better if the visa issuing process was accelerated.
TourismUpdate.co.za quotes Renuka Natu, Head of Sales and Marketing in Mumbai for Indian tour specialist SST, a division of Tourvest, who says visas for South Africa are still taking 20 working days, despite SA Consulate claims of a five-day processing period. “Clients trust the [consulate] website more than the information given to them by the agent, resulting in late submission to the agent and last-minute cancellations owing to delays with the visa. I am still receiving at least one visa delay case per fortnight, and mostly for group passengers.”
She says South Africa’s performance in this instance is not as smooth as its direct competitor, Australia (no shit Sherlock! – Ed).
Her South African counterpart, Suzanne Benadie, Director of Sales and Marketing at SST in Johannesburg recounts: “We recently had a group arriving in May where eight guests had to cancel last minute as their visas had not come through. A lot of confirmed bookings are releasing and cancelling due to visa challenges, only to be reinstated a few days later when visas come through. Sometimes hotels no longer have availability.”
Johan Groenewald, MD of SA-based Royal African Discoveries, experienced a flood of calls from Indian agents in April concerning changes in supporting documentation required by VFS visa centres that supply visa processing services for the South African Consulate-General. Centres were requesting original letters from hotels and stamped and signed itineraries, whereas previously they accepted standard tour operator letters.
South Africa’s attempts to ease the visa application procedure for prospective Indian visitors has included outsourcing to VFS Global, which, according to its website, has set up nine South African Visa Application Centres in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Goa and Bangalore. VFS Global handles visitor and transit visa applications and, from this month, will also accept long-term/permit applications.
These centres fall either under the purview of the South African High Commission in New Delhi, or the South African Consulate-General in Mumbai and list processing times of five to seven days. However, as TourismUpdate.co.za is reporting, it is at the High Commission and Consulate-General where much of the delay has occurred. Mention has been made of “capacity constraints”, but this has been going on for years. Not to be able to solve capacity constraints can simply be translated to uselessness.