The aim of this statement is to update journalists and their audiences on the work the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is doing to address the persisting challenges that the travel and tourism industry faces with the implementation of the Amended Immigration Regulations. The specific challenges faced by the industry are with the unintended consequences of biometric data capturing for international visitors into the country and the continued requirement of unabridged birth certificates for minors under the age of 18 travelling into our country. Other pressing concerns are on the requirement for accommodation establishments to make and keep copies of the IDs of their guests upon checking in.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has presented a number of recommendations to address challenges that the travel and tourism industry is facing with regards to the implementation of the Amended Immigration Regulations.
TBCSA’s recommendations were presented during a meeting of the National Tourism Minister with Captains of Industry on 9 November 2016. The meeting was also attended by key officials from the National Treasury and Tourism Departments. The meeting was held within the context of Cabinet’s economic boosting initiative programme that was initiated earlier this year and involves engaging the private sector in the various sectors of the economy to come up with strategies to stimulate economic growth.
For travel and tourism, this process of engagement has led to the formation of five work streams, whose main task is to identify quick-win initiatives to increase the sector’s contribution to economic growth and job creation.
During the meeting, the National Department of Tourism presented a progress report on the work of the Regulatory and Market Access work stream, which is led by the Deputy Director-General, Aneme Malan. A highlight of the report was on the challenges the industry still faces with the implementation of the Amended Immigration Regulations, with the TBCSA making recommendations to ease the pressures at least in the short to medium term as follows:
Firstly, on easing the congestion at our airports, especially at OR Tambo International Airport, the suggested short-term measure (soft solution), made by the TBCSA (to leverage on the existing Welcome Campaign by SA Tourism) is to create a positive and welcoming ambiance at immigration zones. This could be through the use of ushers (thus employing young people to welcome tourists) to help direct the visitors to the correct immigration queues; to provide them with refreshments such as water; and also with relevant information pertaining to their visit and destination to South Africa.
As it’s done in other countries, the TBCSA suggested the setting-up of video infotainment and entertainment; and having kiosks where tourists can buy snacks and other beverages whilst waiting in queues. TBCSA and SA Tourism have offered to cover the financial costs of the provision of ushers through the Welcome Campaign programme and also to assist in securing sponsors and/or partners to provide the suggested refreshments (water) if needed.
Secondly, the Council proposes the adoption of a system that was used during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, where airport immigration services enlisted SAPS assistance. The idea is that immigration officials who currently work in the departure section (emigration zones) could be moved to the arrivals section (immigration zone), thus increasing the staff capacity in the arrivals section and alleviating congestion.
In the medium to long-term TBCSA urges the DHA to work speedily with National Treasury, Public Service and Administration and Tourism to resolve the procedural and budget issues pertaining to allocation of personnel.
“In this meeting we got to understand that budgetary constraints are among some of the factors contributing to the congestion challenges and delays at the airport. The other, and possibly most significant factor relates to staffing policies and processes prescribed by the Public Services and Administration (DPSA) department. It is with this context that we believe the DPSA has an important role to play in this process to ensure that a positive and speedy resolution is found,” Mmatšatši Ramawela, chief executive officer at TBCSA said.
On the issue of regulating the movement of minor children from visa-exempt countries, TBCSA acknowledged the establishment of the Immigrations Advisory Board (IAB) and the Boards’ willingness to engage further on the ‘wording’ of the regulation. TBCSA recommends that South Africa should channel its focus on regulating travel of its own minor citizens travelling out of the country (South Africans), in line with international best practice instead of regulating the travel of minors from other countries especially the visa-exempt ones.
“We have tabled our proposals and they were well received,” says Ms Ramawela. “The extent to which the proposed ‘soft solutions’ are implemented ahead of the festive holidays will be dependent on how quickly the Departments of Tourism and Home Affairs, as well as ACSA engage and agree on a plan of action. We will follow-up on these actions in the coming weeks to ensure that there is progress. Furthermore, we are looking forward to working with the Department of Tourism and the IAB to work on the regulations on the travel by minors – we are cautiously optimistic that a solution will be found that will end the two-year struggle for our industry and clients.”