Archive from September, 2015
Sep 30, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Biometric machines yet to arrive

29 Sep 2015 – Tourism Update

The biometric data machines have not yet arrived at the South African consulates in Russia, India and China.
South African embassies in China, India and Russia have not received any biometric machines and are not sure when they will be delivered. Tourism Update established as much when contacting the embassies this week.
Under the country’s immigration regulations, tourists who require visas to travel to South Africa are required to make visa applications in person to facilitate the intake of biometric data.
The SA consulate in China requires travellers to apply for a visa in person, however the consulate in India said travellers could apply for a visa in person or through a travel agent.
Mayihlome Tshwete, a spokesperson for DHA, said Home Affairs was waiting for the recommendations to come out of the inter-ministerial committee before moving forward with placing biometric machines at all South African consulates. “The committee may recommend taking biometrics in each country or at the port of entry but it doesn’t help doing one thing and the IMC coming out with another recommendation.”
Tshwete emphasised that people were still applying for visas to SA the same way they always have.
The Department of Home Affairs earlier this month revealed it was considering taking visitors’ biometrics on arrival but that wholesale changes to South Africa’s immigration regulations were unlikely.

Sep 29, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA govt must make tourism, open skies priority – expert

Sep 28 2015 – Carin Smith – Fin24
Cape Town – The South African government must think seriously about liberalising the country’s skies and addressing the impact of the current visa regulations, according to David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
“When I met with President Jacob Zuma in the past I showed him the importance of the contribution the tourism industry makes and can make to SA’s gross domestic product (GDP),” Scowsill told Fin24 during a visit to Cape Town after he addressed the World Routes Strategy Summit in Durban.
He also recently attended the joint high level forum of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on the importance of the aviation industry working hand-in-hand with the wider travel and tourism sector in order to encourage job creation and economic growth.
“The two industries are inextricably linked and mutually dependent. One cannot survive without the other,” said Scowsill.
“African states must work together to open the continent’s skies in order to maximise the potential of the travel and tourism sector.”
Scowsill emphasised that the lack of open skies in Africa is due to protectionist fears among many governments on the continent.
“The economic potential of tourism in Africa is remarkable. According to our figures it will rival Asia Pacific for growth in the next decade. But for this to materialise or even be exceeded, it needs individual nations to work together on progressively implementing the Yamoussoukro Agreement signed over 25 years ago,” he emphasised.
“The role of aviation in creating jobs and driving economic growth is too important to be ignored, particularly when restrained by one ministry’s mandate to protect a national airline.
The industry requires a coherent aviation policy. It cannot make financial sense for a country to protect one or two companies, at the expense of the economic growth of an entire industry.”
He said travel and tourism generates economic growth, jobs and investment. Globally the travel and tourism industry supports 277 million jobs, which equates to 1 in 11 jobs on the planet.
Scowsill also pointed out that travel and tourism is also an export sector. Last year the industry generated nearly 6% of the world’s export dollars.
“Aviation liberalisation creates more routes, greater competition and lower fares. We urge the continent’s leaders to fully liberalise aviation for the potential of our industry to be fully realised,” said Scowsill.
“Ultimately markets have to liberalise and compete. In South America, for instance, there are now only three airline groupings and they are all in the private sector. When the airways are liberalised national carriers must learn to compete and be sustainable or go out of business.”
He pointed out that the total economic contribution of travel and tourism to South Africa’s GDP was R357bn or 9.4% in 2014 and this contribution was expected to grow by 4.3% per year over the next ten years.
The industry supported 1.5 million direct, indirect and induced jobs in 2014, which represented 9.9% of total employment in SA. Travel and tourism contributes nearly 10% of world GDP.
That is why he urges African governments on behalf of the WTTC to get involved in discussions about aviation policies so that all role players can have clarity when making long term decisions.
“A government should take a view on aviation. Does it want more jobs to be created in the industry or does it want to protect its national airline?” asked Scowsill.
“We have seen that these kinds of discussions are the most effective when the president of a country gets involved. The same goes for visa issues, as the ones SA currently face.”
SA’s visa issues
Scowsill explained that the WTTC supports any government intervention regarding child trafficking, but pointed out that many countries found good ways to tackle the issue of porous borders without resorting to unabridged birth certificates.
“This has been a step too far by the SA government in our opinion. No other country requires this and it has already led to a decline in inbound tourism to SA. We urge Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the inter-ministerial committee to look carefully at this issue and to make changes to the current visa regime,” he said.
As for the second visa hurdle recently created by the SA government, the requirement of biometric data to be taken at the point of departure, Scowsill said most countries record those kinds of data at the point of arrival.
In his view the current requirement is also having a dramatic impact especially on business travel to SA and on the Chinese tourism market, which is an important new source market for SA.
In his view, for the best economic results, it is also important for SA and other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to try and create a common visa structure for the region.
“Make it easy for people to come here. A common visa for the region, a common free trade zone and open skies – even if started among just four or five neighbouring countries – will get the positive economic impact going,” said Scowsill. He praised a similar move in East Africa as an example.
He pointed out that foreign airlines are being put off participating in African markets by a range of factors, including high fuel cost, protectionist tendencies by governments towards their national carriers, monopolies on ground services, as well as problems with maintenance and infrastructure.
“It is not that vision of politicians which is lacking. We fully support the International Air Transport Association’s (Iata) encouragement for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, which pledged to liberalise air services between 44 countries. Yet, over 25 years after that historic commitment, progress has been slow. It is the implementation that has failed,” cautioned Scowsill.
“In that time, Europe’s skies have become fully liberalised to airlines from within the bloc, creating the example which parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America have followed.
The Gulf Carriers were born and grew to a point of becoming major global forces. So much time has passed and so little liberalisation on the African continent.”
He urged the leaders of the African Union to make the long-held dream of open skies a reality.

Sep 29, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Leeway for migrants sending money will boost formal channels

by Andiswa Maqutu and Ray Ndlovu, June 17 2015 – Business Day
MIGRANTS are likely to make greater use of formal methods to send money to their home countries after Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Act exemption for low-value crossborder money transfers this month.
The South African Reserve Bank also gave the green light this month to Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest cellphone service provider, for it to roll out its money transfer service in SA.
The EcoCash service will begin operating at the end of next month, which will see crossborder cellphone money transfers taking place from SA to Zimbabwe.
The act requires natural persons conducting crossborder money transfers to render their full names, dates of birth, identity numbers and residential address to financial institutions. However, under the exemption coming into effect on July 1, amounts of less than R3,000 a day and R10,000 a month will not be subject to these strict requirements.
About 68% of the value of remittances from SA is channelled through informal crossborder corridors, according to a FinMark study conducted in 2012.
The main reason for using informal channels was the “Know Your Customer” requirements under the act. The exemption would encourage remitters using informal and “risky” channels to use formal channels to send money in the main corridors around SA including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Malawi, the trust said. The exemption would also reduce the cost of conducting such transactions.
Sending money from SA to neighbouring countries is the most expensive remittance channel in the world, with fees higher than 22% charged for $200, according to the FinMark Trust.
“This exemption will result in a reduction in the cost and less administrative work on the part of financial institutions. It will also encourage remitters currently using informal and risky channels to use formal channels,” said the FinMark Trust.
SA is home to an estimated 3-million Zimbabweans and this presents a lucrative market for Econet Wireless, which has seen dwindling revenue from voice calls, once its cash cow. It is increasingly looking to money transfer and data services for revenue.
In its latest financial results, Econet Wireless said revenue from EcoCash had reached $72.7m in the year to February from $44m last year — a growth of 32%, which signals the potential in the sector.
Under the recent Bank-licensed dispensation, the EcoCash platform will enable Zimbabwean citizens living abroad to send money directly back home.
“The approval allows Zimbabweans living in SA to send money to any Econet Wireless number anywhere in Zimbabwe using EcoCash,” Econet Wireless said.

Sep 29, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

China leads tourism slump to SA

Sep 28 2015 – Fin24
Pretoria – A comparison between June 2014 and June 2015 shows that, with the exception of France, the number of tourists decreased for all the other nine leading overseas countries, according to data released by Statistics SA on Monday.
China had the largest decrease of 28.4% – from 5 823 tourists in June 2014 to 4 167 in June 2015.
In July, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde warned that SA’s new visa regulations relating to unabridged birth certificates and biometric data scanning would result in tourism, especially from new source markets like China and India, decreasing and possibly “simply falling away”.
The volume of foreign arrivals decreased by 9.6% to 1 087 067 in June 2015 compared with May 2015. In June 2015 most overseas tourists came from Europe (46.5%) followed by North America (25.9%), Asia (14.9%), Australasia (8.1%), Central and South America (2.8%) and the Middle East (1.9%).
The ten leading overseas countries for visitors to SA in June 2015 were the US (23.3%), UK (15.7%), Australia (6.8%), Germany (6.1%), India (5.8%), France (4.5%), The Netherlands (3.7%), China (3.7%), Italy (2.6%) and Canada (2.6%). Tourists from these ten countries constituted 74.8% of all tourists from overseas countries.
Foreign departures decreased by 9.1% to 1 006 275 in June 2015 compared with May 2015 and foreign travellers in transit decreased by 3% to 64 928.
The foreign arrivals in June were made up of 80 468 non-visitors and 1 006 599 visitors. The visitors consisted of 396 507 same-day visitors and 610 092 overnight visitors (defined as tourists).
The breakdown of the tourists by region shows that 113 689 came from overseas, 482 523 from countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and 12 620 from other African countries outside the SADC region. The country of residence of 1 260 tourists was classified as unspecified. Virtually all tourists from Africa (97.5%) came from the SADC countries.
The volume of tourism arrivals in June 2015 decreased for both South African residents and foreign travellers compared with June 2014.
A comparison between the movements in May 2015 and June 2015 indicates that the volume of arrivals for South African residents decreased by 8.1% to 400 910 and departures increased by 10.5% to 466 451. Compared to June 2014 the volume of arrivals for South African residents decreased by 2.1% and departures increased by 1.4%.
The Stats SA data shows that in June 2015 road transport was the most common mode of travel used by 2 216 814 (73.2%) out of the 3 026 499 travellers. The total number of travellers who used air transport was 801 937 (26.5%).
In the case of foreign travellers, 179 733 (16.5%) arrived by air, while 903 509 (83.1%) came by road, while 193 687 (19.2%) departed South Africa by air and 809 120 (80.4%) by road. Only 7 293 (0.3%) foreign travellers arrived in SA by sea.
The arrivals data for South African residents show that 160 233 (40%) came by air, 240 428 (60%) came by road and 249 (less than 0.1%) arrived by sea.
In June 2015 the majority of tourists (95.5%) came to South Africa for a holiday compared with 4% and 0.6% who were in SA for business and for study purposes respectively.

Sep 29, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Data confirms visa hit on tourism – CEO

28/9/2015 – Fin24
Cape Town – There is now concrete data that confirms the adverse effects of SA’s new regulations on the country’s tourism industry, Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, told Fin24 on Monday.
He responded to the latest visitor data released by Statistics SA. A comparison between June 2014 and June 2015 shows that, with the exception of France, the number of tourists decreased for all the other nine leading overseas tourism source countries of SA. China had the largest decrease of 28.4% – from 5 823 tourists in June 2014 to 4 167 in June 2015.

“Since the introduction of the new travel requirements for travellers on June 1 2015 by the Department of Home Affairs the tourism industry has been predicting a decline in visitors. Now that we have concrete data we can confirm the adverse effects of these regulations,” said Duminy.
Traveller date intelligence firm ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million reservation transactions each day, said earlier this month that the new visa rules are seriously affecting family travel.

Its data shows international family arrivals had been growing by 1.8% compared with the same period last year, but since the introduction of the visa restrictions on June 1, family arrivals have fallen 10%.

The new rules require that any child arriving in South Africa must carry an unabridged birth certificate, or have submitted this earlier when applying for a visa. The change has been introduced by the Department of Home Affairs as a security measure against child trafficking.

ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million reservation transactions each day, recently said before the new visa regulations, “family” was the only growing tourism segment.
“The key tactic for all tourism industry partners in combatting these negative numbers is to circulate more information to international travellers. Once these requirements are fully understood globally the sooner South Africa can expect positive arrival numbers again,” said Duminy.
The City of Cape Town’s assessment on the economic value of tourism in Cape Town, conducted by independently-appointed consultants Grant Thornton, estimated that 37 551 people were permanently and 15 130 temporarily employed in the tourism industry in Cape Town in 2013.
Estimations relating to new birth certificate requirements suggest that R9.7bn in gross domestic product (GDP) could be lost to the South African economy and 21 100 jobs countrywide and, as an outcome of the biometric visa requirements, a further R36.7bn in GDP and 80 100 jobs could potentially be lost.

“Cape Town Tourism is confident that despite this downward trend, the global reputation of Cape Town as a premier holiday destination, the current devaluation of the rand and many forthcoming events will entice visitors to the Mother City,” said Duminy.

Sep 28, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Opinion: Concession signals collapse of Home Affairs birth certificate idea

25 Sep 2015 – Tourism Update
Unabridged Birth Certificate regulations cannot be enforced – and Home Affairs latest move proves this.
Tourism Update has long held the view that the new immigration regulations, requiring minors crossing SA’s borders to have UBCs, is unworkable. The reason is simple: most minors crossing the borders are from SADC states and, according to a Unicef 2013 report, the majority have no form of documentary proof of birth.
Thus it is no surprise that concessions are now being made.
Last week, Home Affairs announced that minors from Lesotho will not need a UBC when crossing the border if they have a letter from a South African “learning institution” saying the institution holds the UBC in safe keeping.
What the definition of a school or a learning institution is and how the document will be verified by immigration officials are questions we would like Home Affairs to answer.
This concession does not come as a surprise as the Department of Home Affairs in Lesotho on its website does not even mention a service for its citizens to get a UBC.
Studies show that child trafficking is linked to the incidence of extreme poverty.
The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons (ITEMP) identifies poverty as the root cause of international human trafficking. It has just completed a study that establishes a strong correlation between countries’ GDP and their odds of being a source or destination country for international trafficking.
The US-based Borgon Project, an NGO dedicated to fighting extreme poverty, points out that victims attempt to move from areas with extreme poverty to areas with less extreme poverty. In these instances, it is the desire of potential victims to migrate to escape poverty that is exploited by traffickers.
It is therefore ironic that a concession has been made for Lesotho – a dirt poor country, with a GDP per capita that is a fifth of South Africa – while the regulations are throttling tourism growth from key source markets of the 79 countries in the world with a higher GDP per capita than SA, where trafficking is less likely.
If these UBC regulations were really about protecting children then Home Affairs should be focussing its measures on the borders with SADC states like Lesotho, Mozambique, where SA’s GDP per capita is nine times higher, or Zimbabwe where it is 20 times higher.
The fact that Home Affairs’ UBC tactic is unravelling is exposed when it makes concessions like this on a border where it is most likely needed.
In the meantime, every day, we believe minors needing to enter SA from SADC states bypass the system one way or another as they are unable to provide the necessary documentation.

Sep 28, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Thousands lose SA citizenship after embracing other countries

by Wyndham Hartley, 22 September 2015, Business Day
ABOUT 2,000 South Africans lost citizenship over a four-year period as a result of acquiring the citizenship of other countries, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Monday.
The disclosure that South Africans are losing their citizenship comes after a furious debate earlier this month over a suggestion that the African National Congress (ANC) intended to review the rules on dual citizenship. Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance Obed Bapela said the party’s national general council would discuss the matter, but Mr Gigaba said the policy would not be reviewed.
On Monday, Mr Bapela retracted his statement, saying the matter was not on the agenda of the ANC’s policy discussion conference, which is scheduled to take place early next month.
Mr Gigaba, replying to a parliamentary question from Democratic Alliance MP Hanif Hoosen, said about 500 South Africans a year had lost their citizenship in the past four years.
Mr Hoosen had asked: “How many South Africans … lost their citizenship in terms of Section 6 of the South African Citizenship Act, and from which countries did the persons acquire citizenship?”
Mr Gigaba said: “A majority of cases relate to citizens taking up citizenship in Australia, western Europe, Canada and the US.”
The department’s website was up to date in relation to the Citizenship Act, and it was each South African’s responsibility to be familiar with the act before to taking up citizenship elsewhere, he said.
The act, as amended in 2004, makes it an offence for a South African citizen to enter or depart from SA on a foreign passport.
This means that an emigrant who acquires a foreign passport must retain and renew his or her South African passport. Thus a South African who has dual citizenship can use a foreign passport overseas, but this is prohibited when travelling into the country.
In 2004, the department had warned citizens with two travel documents not to travel into and out of the country on foreign passports, and advised them to reapply for their South African passports, said Mr Gigaba.
The Citizenship Act provides that the minister may deprive any citizen by naturalisation of his or her citizenship if the certificate of naturalisation was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact.