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MBABANE – The country’s tourism industry’s threat is far from easing as reports have emerged that tour operators in China, Europe and America are advising prospective tourists not to come to South Africa.

These disturbing news were disclosed by Comair-South African Airways (SAA) Manager and Operator’s Chief Executive Officer Erik Venter. Venter expressed this view at his company’s celebration of 20 years of franchise partnership with British Airways last week. Venter said the tour operators are advising to-be tourists against coming to South Africa, mainly because of the contentious immigration regulations which came into effect last year. With these reports, the country’s tourism industry will continue being harmed. This emanates from the fact that South Africa is the region’s (Southern Africa’s) gateway. This means tourists coming to Swaziland and other countries first land in South Africa before visiting the neighbouring countries.

Venter said the immigration regulations have had a devastating effect on the growth in visitors to SA and Africa as whole and will go on harming tourism until government changes its stance.
“The changes have had a serious effect on tourism in SA,” he said. “We have been talking to tour operators in China‚ Europe and America about this. They have been advising clients not to come to South Africa.

He said SA is very much advertised by word of mouth. “We don’t have strong advertising in other countries. Our tourism depends very much on the people who tell their friends and family about their experience. When they experience the problems we have in immigration they then go back home and tell people not to come here,” he said.

Despite the notable harm on tourism by the contentious South Africa’s immigration regulations, it appears the department of Home Affairs is not ready to change them for the better. The department introduced biometric system‚ which captures travellers’ fingerprints at ports of entry in April last year‚ but rolled it out this June at 65 per cent of Home Affairs counters at terminals for arrivals and transit passengers.

Compounding the problem was confusion over the requirement for foreign visitors to travel with unabridged birth certificates for their children. Venter said the regulations had to change to help boost tourism. “Until these regulations are changed, we are going to struggle,” he said.

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa revealed on Friday the extent of disruption for tourists landing at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport‚ measured during October 1-18, 2016.
Visitors queued at immigration at peak times for anything from 90 minutes to four hours, 800 passengers missed connecting flights due to delays, 24 domestic and nine international flights were delayed. International migration services counters were staffed at only 40 per cent strength on average.

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