More than 9 300 jobs were due to be lost in the South African tourism industry, resulting to the total net loss of R4.1 billion (about US$380 million) to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, a research report conducted by Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) suggested recently.
Once a bustling sector that used to contribute about 8% to the country’s GDP, tourism in this Africa’s second-largest economy has been losing steam thick and fast.
It is also estimated that South Africa will receive 100 000 fewer overseas tourists this year, according to a Grant Thornton survey.
Industry watchers blame the setback primarily to the new visa regulations, which they say constitute new barriers to the sector moving forward and making any significant impact in the economy.
“It appears that government is not unified over the new visa rules, with the Deputy President now tasked with heading up an inter-ministerial committee on visa regulations to examine concerns about the country’s amended visa regulations which might lead to a rethink. Business Partners Limited (BPL) executive director Gerrie van Biljon said.
“These effectively require many prospective visitors from countries, such as China and India, to travel hundreds of kilometers in their own countries to one of the isolated offices that handle South African visa applications,” he explained.
Van Biljon said the impact on the industry is clear in the latest figures, with International Air Transport Association (IATA) showing a 21% year-on-year decline in air ticket revenue for tickets purchase to South Africa this July.
He urged tourism enterprises to tackle the difficult time ahead with immediate action.
“Tourism businesses that had been focusing on international tourists need to work on providing enticing packages for the local market to fill as many beds and seats as possible if the international tourists aren’t coming in the numbers that they used to.”