South Africa has unveiled a new visa waiver agreement with selected countries, allowing travellers from there to enter the country without a visa in a bid to boost tourism to the country.
The arrangement, however, excludes Nigeria, the country which for years was led with the highest arrivals to the country from Africa.
Nigeria has close two million nationals resident in South Africa.
This announcement was made by Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday in Pretoria.
Citizens from countries which will now no longer require a visa to travel to South Africa include; Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, Belarus, Georgia and Cuba.
These countries join the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil and Canada whose citizens already have visa waiver agreements.
“We have implemented a visa waiver for all citizens of the Russian Federation and Angola, on 1 April 2017 and 1 December 2017, respectively, to travel to SA without having to apply for a visa,” Gigaba said.
Furthermore, Gigaba said that the development of the e-Visa is at an advanced stage and will be piloted in New Zealand by April 2019. This will significantly enhance efficiency in the issuing of visas to tourists and business people visiting our country,” Gigaba said.
For the past 12 months, South Africa welcomed 10.29 million foreign tourists (visitors who stayed overnight) in 2017. This is up only 2.4 per cent over 2016.
Director, advisory services at Grant Thornton, Lee-Anne Bac, says: “This increase is unfortunately underwhelming and significantly below the global average of 7 per cent.”
The number of overseas tourists (2.7 million) is up 7.2 per cent in 2017, this good growth was driven by excellent performance in the first half of the year.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, Stats SA reveals that the number of overseas tourists increased by only 3.7 per cent – and this figure was driven down by a dismal increase of less than 1per cent in December 2017.
“We attribute the dramatic decline at the end of the year to the impact of the water crisis in Cape Town, coupled with South Africa’s strengthening currency,” continues Bac.
According to Stats SA, the number of African arrivals (7.6 million) is a mere 0.8per cent up in 2017 – driven by a significant decline in Q1 of 8per cent.
For the remaining three quarters of 2017, African arrivals increased by 5per cent (Q2), 3.7per cent (Q3) and 3.6per cent (Q4) respectively.
Key source countries with low growth/declines in tourism numbers in 2017 include: United Kingdom, a significant source market for the country: 0per cent (no growth over 2016). As the UK is, no growth from this market has a big impact on total arrival figures; New Zealand: down 24 per cent in 2017; Nigeria, previously the leading market in West Africa: down 22%; and China: down 17 per cent (eroding half the growth from this market in 2016).