'Drop in tourism not linked to new visa rules'

Home Affairs says xenophobic attacks & Ebola could have led to the decrease in visitor figures.

FILE: Travellers at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Govan Whittles/ EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Home Affairs Department has called for a full and more in-depth assessment following criticism about the impact of new visa regulations.

Travel bodies say there's been a massive drop in air ticket sales since the regulations were implemented.

But Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni has strongly refuted these claims.

Apleni says it is impossible to attribute a sharp drop in tourism figures to the new visa regulations.

He says the effects of the legislation have been exaggerated.

"I think we need to change the stance and say what must we do to go and sell our country as a tourist destination."

The new rules require minors to carry an abridged birth certificate and visitors from some countries to undergo biometric testing.

Home Affairs says its insistence of an unabridged birth certificate for children travelling abroad is aimed at complying with the Children's Act, but the Tourism Business Council says the requirement is not standard practice across the world.

Tourism Business Council CEO Mmatsatsi Ramawela says the policy keeps changing and this is affecting their turnover.

The new regulations were implemented at the beginning of June and it's been reported that the tourism industry has lost R886 million so far.

Apleni says it is unfair and convenient for critics to place the blame on the Home Affairs Department and ignore the impact of the recent spate of xenophobic attacks as well as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa which could also have scared visitors away.