Gigaba celebrates ‘impressive’ tourist statistics

The Department of Home Affairs has announced a 7.6% increase in foreign arrivals this festive season.

Department of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: Home Affairs Twitter: @HomeAffairsSA

JOHANNESBURG - As the Home Affairs Department celebrates increases in the number of travellers entering South Africa, Minister Malusi Gigaba says negative talk about the tourism sector needs to end.

The minister has described it as impressive the number of tourists who still choose South Africa as a holiday destination.

Earlier today, the department announced a 7.6% increase in foreign arrivals this festive season.

Gigaba says fighting about the implementation of new visa regulations is counterproductive.

"Once we stop fighting amongst ourselves, travellers will then focus on making preparations to come to the country."

He says latest figures show that tourists consider more than just regulations when choosing a destination.

"It's not the visa regulations that attract tourists to a country; it's the beauty and other factors."

However, the Home Affairs Minister says laws are necessary to protect the country, as poor safety measures will push travellers away.

Meanwhile, the department says it's on track with making concessions to its visa regulations.

In October, government announced changes to the controversial laws that require biometric testing for foreign tourists and for minors travelling without parents to produce unabridged birth certificates and affidavits.

Minister Gigaba says while changes haven't yet come into effect, the tourism sector has seen favourable improvements this festive season.

He says the first of the visa regulation amendments should start taking effect later this month.

"Indeed we are on course. We should be ready soon, to report on the strong advisory in respect of children from visa exempt countries.

Under the new laws, school principals will be given authority to give consent for pupils going on trips.

The period of validity of a parental affidavit will also be extended.

So far the department has also launched its biometric capturing pilot project at some ports of entry, which has seen the scrapping of transit visas.

WATCH: New biometric capturing system for SA airports