More than 13 000 tourists have been barred from entering South Africa because of the controversial regulation about having to travel with unabridged birth certificates for minors.
And 800 other passengers who flew into the country earlier this month missed their connecting flights because of lengthy delays at the immigration desks at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg while officers were processing biometric details.
The figures were provided by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and presented at a Portfolio Committee on Tourism meeting in Parliament on Friday.
Now, James Vos, the DA spokesperson for tourism, who said yesterday that details about the number of barred tourists came from the airlines, plans to raise the issue in Parliament this week.
“I knew that we would lose tourists as a result of the unabridged birth certificate requirement, but I was horrified that 13 246 tourists were denied visiting South Africa from July 2015 to July,” he said.
The requirement, which aims to stop child trafficking, calls for single parents travelling with minor children to carry their full unabridged birth certificates, and in the event there is only one parent, he/she must also travel with an affidavit from the other parent giving permission for the children to travel to South Africa. If the missing parent has died, the mother/father must travel with the death certificate.
International airlines have been stopping families without the full birth certificates from boarding planes as they know they have to have them in South Africa.
Vos issued a statement at the weekend, saying that according to TBCSA, a tourist spends on average R13 000 a day, thus “our country has lost potential revenue of R7.51-billion.”
“This is absolutely tourism terminating, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, was warned 18 months ago that this would happen.”
Proposed new immigration amendments say that immigration officers “may” ask for proof that the adult travelling with a child is a parent, but as tourism observers point out, this still means that adult passengers will still have to travel with the relevant documents.
Vos believes that an e-visa should be introduced, enabling passengers to provide documentation in advance, saying this would be safer and faster.
He plans to call on Parliament to scrap the need for an unabridged birth certificates and to consider the e-visa option.
The TBCSA meanwhile said it distanced itself from “all talk of legal action to force government to scrap the requirement” for the unabridged birth certificates.
TBCSA’s overall objective was to come up with lasting solutions that would provide certainty and “restore trade confidence in destination South Africa”, the organisation’s chief executive, Mmatsatsi Ramawela, said.
Vos also pointed out that TBCSA had revealed at the portfolio committee that because immigration officers were processing biometric details of incoming passengers, visitors had been standing in line at the immigration area at peak times for between 90 minutes to four hours.