TBCSA Media Update on amended immigration regulations

Immigration regulations
Immigration regulations

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.

TBCSA is an umbrella organisation representing the voice of organised travel and tourism businesses in South Africa. We serve to contribute to a competitive, responsible and inclusive travel and tourism economy that in-turn makes a greater contribution to the broader economy of South Africa. Our members are businesses whose total contribution to GDP in 2015 reached R375,5 bn (9.4% of SA GDP); that have generated a total of R115.0bn in visitor exports; and have a total of R63.7bn in investments (7.8% of total SA investment) – according to the 2016 SA economic impact published by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Since 2014, the TBCSA has been working to address the concerns of its members and the broader industry on the introduction of specifically two regulations included in the Amended Immigration Regulations, namely: a) the capturing of biometric data for all international visitors into the country; b) the continued requirement for unabridged birth certificates (UBCs) for travelling minors. Through engagement and consultation with various role-players in the private and public sector (including the intervention by the Cabinet Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration), some progress has been made.

Unfortunately, the well-meaning concession that led to the introduction biometric data capturing on arrival at our airports, is now being compromised by the lack of resources within the Home Affairs Department. This has led to congestion and delays at the immigration zone – mainly at OR Tambo International Airport. With the traditional festive season, fast approaching and the anticipated increase in tourist numbers, concern is growing since there hasn’t been any confirmation on contingency measures being put in place to address this urgent challenge facing the industry. In addition, the amendments made on the UBC requirement does not go far enough to address the concerns of the trade and that of tourists wanting to visit South Africa.

The resulting effect is that two years after the introduction of the new immigration regulations, business in the travel and tourism industry is unable to fully capitalise on the weak Rand and the buoyant global travel market.

To address these matters in a collaborative and partnership manner, the TBCSA continues to engage relevant stakeholders both in the public and private sector. We recently addressed the newly-established Immigration Advisory Board and the Tourism Parliamentary Portfolio Committee with our recommendations on addressing the concerns of the industry. These matters will also be raised at the upcoming Captains of Industry meeting with the Ministers of Tourism and Finance. It needs to be noted that in putting forward its concerns and recommendations, the TBCSA and its members took care not to disregard the security concerns of the country.

Through these actions, we wish to validate our commitment to continue our stakeholder engagement – to use all dialogue opportunities to finding lasting solutions to these challenges. The leadership of the TBCSA believes that solutions to these challenges are possible through continued dialogue and a spirit of partnership and collaboration.