S. Africa wants visa rules eased to boost tourism

Tourists at a beach in Diani. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Tourists at a beach in Diani. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Africa can unlock tourism potential when its countries are more accessible to visitors through friendly travel visa rules and by creating more direct-flight routes.

South African Tourism minister Derek Hanekom last week said in Durban the continent had made “little progress in visa issuance” while treatment of visitors at the airports has led to decline in tourist arrivals.

He cited a case where a visitor is turned away at the airport for lacking a travel document.

Online visa applications and issuing the document on arrival were some of the innovative ways to encourage intra-Africa travel and also invite others from the rest of the world, Mr Hanekom said at the tourism marketing gala Travel Indaba in Durban last week.

African countries are not as accessible as they should be due to strict Visa rules that limit doing business, he told a media briefing.

“Make it easy for people to come to your country; we seem to make it difficult for people to come to Africa,” he said. “We need to take stock of which countries need visas and which ones don’t,” said Mr Hanekom, adding that “discussions and commitments were impressive but implementation is a challenge”.

Visitors from Nigeria to South Africa, he said, were declining because there’s difficulty in getting visas, partly due to limited facilitation centres—three in number— for the populous country.

Kenyans travelling to South Africa wait for five working days to get Visas that are collected between noon and 3pm, daily.

South Africa is reviewing its Visa application rules for various countries and Kenya is expected to be on the list of countries whose citizens would get the document on arrival, easing movement. The minister, however, did not give timelines to these possible changes and which countries would benefit. 

Mr Hanekom said President Cyril Ramaphosa was committed to easing access to South Africa since, before becoming President, he chaired a committee that was reviewing the country’s travel regulations and rules.