The beauty of incoming travel to South Africa has been our ability, as hospitality providers, to work well together. Travel agents, tour operators, ground-handlers, hotels and guesthouses have worked as a community. We help one another, all with the same aim: –
We want happy, satisfied tourists.
One happy tourist is the best kind of advertising any country can hope for. Satisfaction means personal recommendations, which means more people travelling. A spin-off effect. In this country, we need to do whatever we can to aid our economy. We want our hotels full and our museums bustling. We want to hear French accents on the street, German being spoken in restaurants and Japanese in the shopping malls. We want people of all nationalities coming to South Africa, spending money and having wonderful holidays.
We don’t just want it. We need it. Visitors from our neighboring African countries remain our biggest source of tourism, and the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and France are our top five overseas tourist markets. And then there is the huge business market, travelers coming from all over the world, which has also been impacted.
The new immigration laws do not work well for ease of travel, and they do nothing to help our economy. The new laws are frustrating, time consuming and not on the side of anyone in the tourism industry, airline industry or retail market.
Tourists have already gotten frustrated. This is evident in the cancellations or postponements some of our Johannesburg guesthouses have received, and we hear this is evident from cancellations regarding group travel in particular, for larger tour operators.
We can only imagine that hotels and travel agents are suffering the same fate. We know how difficult it is for the airlines, which are ultimately responsible for passengers carrying the correct papers, and they bear the cost of anyone who doesn’t. It is their responsibility to send them back home.
The Chinese market, which has been adversely affected by these new tourism laws, is a huge market for South Africa. In 2013, 130000 Chinese tourists came to South Africa. China has an increasing middle class in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, and numbers from China should be increasing, not decreasing.
The bottom line is that our country, our hotels and our people, cannot afford to scare anyone away. We need all the bums in beds that we can possibly have. And while we understand that certain measures have to be put in place to combat crime or corruption, we feel that there has to be a different way to do this.
Unabridged birth certificates take a long time to obtain.
Applying for a visa in person? Again – a lengthy time consuming process. Some countries do not even have a South African representative, or have one that is very far away.
We know that these laws have been put in place to try and combat crime. We also know that people who are going to break the law will always break the law. There needs to be a better way to catch the lawbreakers but not penalize the ordinary people.
We don’t have the answers. Our jobs are to provide a service, to show South Africa to be the beautiful country that it is, to ensure repeat visitors, and to boost the economy.
We do feel that a postponement of such laws, and perhaps a conference or brain storming session to include all players, are vital to look at a different way forward are vital.
We are happy to work with you. But please, make it easy for us too.