Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said that the country’s stricter entry requirements has not hurt the tourism industry as predicted.
The minister was commenting on visitor data over the December period. Gigaba said that the admittance of 5.5 million visitors over the festive season showed that the country remained a safe and trusted destination.
Contrasting this festive season’s visitor numbers with the 2015/2016 season, the minister said that the increase showed that the stricter entry requirements imposed by the ministry, including having unabridged birth certificates, in-person applications at embassies of residence and the capturing of biometrics had not impacted negatively on the tourism industry as many had feared.
The minister noted that 6 400 people were denied entry for not having the requisite travel documents during this period. One of those denied entry was a Syrian national with Syrian and Uruguayan passports, and a member of of the Islamic State terrorist organisation. He was refused entry at O.R Tambo International Airport and had to return to Syria.
Chief executive officer of Southern African Tourism Services Association, David Frost, however took a different view on the statistics, calling it “disingenuous” to compare the latest December cycle with the previous one. He explained that the industry had to examine year-on-year figures on not focus on specific periods to get a clear picture.
“We always wait for the release in three months. We look after the international inbound side and wait for the figures from Statistics SA, which should be out by March,” said Frost.
He related that analyzing arrival numbers on an individual amount did not give an accurate picture, as it did not take seasonal events into account, such as an influx of English tourists for the 2016 New Year’s cricket test in Cape Town.
Frost explained that events such as this could cause a significant increase in visitors from a single country.