James Vos on eVisas and Tourism Growth

Cape Town, February 2020 – During President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of Nation Address, he announced the roll-out of Electronic Visas (eVisas), to make applications easier for tourists wanting to visit the country.

As the incoming Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities in the City of Cape Town, I welcome this announcement for the following reasons. 

With an increase in the demand for international travel worldwide, the key is to have effective systems that simplify the visa application process. This will undoubtedly contribute to an increase in tourism arrivals, and more especially impact positively on our economy and position our city perfectly for investment opportunities. 

Tourism is a vitally important sector in our economy, contributing 9% to GDP, and creating thousands of jobs in skilled and unskilled positions. In fact, 1 job is created for every 12 tourists that visit our shores. 

Our tourism industry is still recovering from the disastrous visa regulations debacle implemented in 2015, which, according to South Africa Tourism Service Association (SATSA), resulted in an estimated R7,5 billion loss to the tourism economy and thousands of jobs. 

I am happy with this announcement of an eVisa system as this is in line with the recommendations by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The failure to scrap the unabridged birth certificate requirement and introduce electronic visas have certainly caused some damages to the South African tourism sector by making it more difficult to attract visitors to South Africa, and this includes Cape Town. 

South Africa must follow the example set by countries with eVisa systems where they have proven to increase border security while decreasing visa turnaround time. This is what is required to unlock the full potential of the tourist market that will lead to increased investment and trade. 

By implementing an eVisa system the SA government can prevent excessive hours waiting at visa centres, reduce the workload of staff working at airports, embassies and consulates, and provide easier facilitation for tourists and business travellers.

The Turkish government implemented an eVisa application system in 2015, and within a short period after introducing the system, experienced an increase in visa applications, from a weekly average of 400 applications to receive more than 1,500 within days. 

We must leverage South Africa’s potential as a tourism destination as far as possible, and do away with all onerous visa regulations that impede the sector’s growth. This announcement by the President could be described as little too late, and therefore we will closely monitor the promised rollout of the eVisa system to ensure that we restore tourism and investment confidence. 

Speaking on behalf of the City of Cape Town Enterprise and Investment portfolio, we fully support a streamlined eVisa system and the scrapping of the Unabridged birth certificate requirement in order to unlock the job creation potential that tourism holds.

Double-Digit Growth for Cape Town Tourism

I am also very excited to confirm the impressive increases in visitor arrivals from forward-bookings made. These numbers are based on actual flight reservations made prior to the December 2019 peak holiday period,

Almost 50 000 travellers are expected to arrive from the UK over the December 2019 to March 2020 period, demonstrating an increase of 30% when compared to the same period last year. The increase from Germany stands at 20% and 11% from the USA.

These stellar increases in tourists from some of our key source markets show that by implementing successful strategies, we can increase the numbers of tourists to our city and ultimately benefit our residents and businesses. Clearly our investments in destination marketing and tourism development are paying off. 

Tourism accounts for thousands of jobs in our city and has great growth potential. The City in partnership with Cape Town Tourism will continue investing in programmes and initiatives to drive demand that make business sense. 

A key driver of growth, through travel and trade, is what I have termed the ‘Blue Economy’ and encompasses both the aviation and ocean economies.

To grow the aviation economy, the City provides funding to the Air Access initiative which is mandated to expand current flight routes and to secure new routes to boost tourism and trade. This initiative has contributed to the success of securing 16 new routes, 22 route expansions and have increased the international seat capacity to 1,5 million two-way seats.

Other important aspects of the ‘Blue Economy’ that are poised for high growth are boat building and cruise tourism. We are working with these key catalytic sectors to implement proven strategies so they reach their full potential. 

About the author: Alderman James Vos is the City of Cape Town Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Opportunities and Assets Management. Follow James on Twitter @VosJames or visit the Democratic Alliance website at www.da.org.za

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