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‘Damage done by visa regulation is worse than expected’

Grant Thorton says the tourism industry suffered more damage than they had expected.

FILE: Tourism minister Derek Hanekom has said he’s grateful that these changes are now being made. Picture: Cape Town Tourism.

JOHANNESBURG - The consultancy that first warned the tourism industry would suffer massive losses when new travel regulations were introduced, says the damage they did was worse than they had expected.

On Friday cabinet reversed an earlier decision by the Department of Home Affairs to introduce regulations requiring biometric visas for tourists and unabridged birth certificates for children travelling to South Africa.

Grant Thornton advisory services' Lee-Anne Bac says the tourism industry suffered more damage than they had expected while these regulations were in force.

"Looking at what has happened to our tourism industry, we are estimating that, due to immigration regulation, [we could have lost around 500,000 tourists this year]."

While political analyst professor Sipho Seepe says there are lessons here for government about making policy.

"The arrogance of ministers working in isolation and not wanting to be interfered with should be a thing of the past."

Tourism minister Derek Hanekom has said he's grateful that these changes are now being made.

At the same time, the tourism industry says it's going to take time and money to rebuild the markets it lost during these time controversial travel regulations were in force.

Bac says there's hard work ahead for the tourism industry.

"It's going to take a lot on time, energy and money to restore our reputation; to get the communication out there out there about the changed regulations."

Seepe says this episode may not actually damage Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

"He is young so he is going and in government you learn and make mistakes. But what is good for him si to climb down."

Gigaba had strongly defended the regulations saying they were required to stop terrorism and child trafficking.

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