Derek Hanekom told TTG@WTM that visa requirements introduced in 2015 to combat human trafficking had been “onerous” for child travel and – combined with the Cape Town drought – had impacted visitors negatively.
The regulations that came into effect in 2015 meant those travelling with children to South Africa had to carry unabridged birth certificates.
“We have to make it easier for people to come to South Africa so visa reforms are critical,” said Hanekom. “What was introduced in 2015 combined with the drought certainly impacted negatively on the countries with a high level of family visitors [such as the US, UK and Germany].
“In the next couple of weeks the advisory notes should be issued… we went for an option that went way beyond what other countries were doing.
“We are still concerned about human trafficking but there are different ways of dealing with it.”
Going forward travellers will not be advised to carry documentation unless there is reason for suspicion.
Hanekom predicted 2019 would be a stronger year for tourism following last year’s drought, which nearly led to Cape Town almost running out of water.
“We know we’ve been growing but tourism is vulnerable to various types of shocks,” he said.
“The drought last year meant immediate cancellation of trips and significantly impacted on tourism numbers. In Cape Town the impact is still being felt – there was a 20% reduction in tourism there [since the end of 2017] and 10% for country as a whole.”
This followed “really good growth in 2016” – 7.2% overall and 10% from the UK market. Total overseas arrivals for 2018 look set to see around 2% growth.
Hanekom added: “We do have a sense of the forward bookings and we’re getting out of it. Our dams are 75% full, some of them 100%.
“There have been a lot of lessons learnt and demand has been reduced. There is no water crisis. We are a water-scarce country and climate change is real so we have to be water conscious.”
Asked about national carrier South African Airways’s financial troubles, Hanekom said: “It’s going to be continuing.
“We [the South African government] budget three years in advance and we’ve set aside the kind of money to help them stay afloat.
“Obviously we can’t subsidise for ever, but they have a turnaround strategy and as a cabinet we’re satisfied they’re putting a lot of effort into it.”