Tourism sector continues to decline

THE South African tourism industry has been dealt another blow as airline ticket sales figures show that ticket purchases have dropped significantly.

Figures released by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) show that in July there was a 21% decline in year-on-year air ticket revenue for tickets purchased to travel to SA.

Air ticket revenue fell 26% year-on-year in June. Travel from Asia to SA has declined 32%, while tourist traffic from Europe and North America dipped 23% and 27% respectively in June, according to the Iata data.

The Iata numbers follow the release of Statistics SA figures showing a similar declining trend.

The tourism sector has blamed the recent developments on the country’s new visa regime, which it called “draconian and arbitrary”.

But on Tuesday Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said that Cabinet processes had to take their course before pronouncements could be made on the visa regulations and their effect on tourism.

“I really have nothing new to say, or to add, on what I have already said,” he said.

“The Cabinet agreed on a process, and that process is currently under way, so we all just have to wait for it to take its course,” Mr Hanekom said.

Southern African Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost said it was obvious the visa regulations had had a negative effect on airline ticket sales to SA.

“You have to ask yourself what is different from the previous years … it’s these illogical regulations,” Mr Frost said. “If (there has indeed been a) 21% revenue drop, it equates to a 10% reduction in passengers. The impact that this has on the country is dire.

“The unabridged birth certificates regulations are ill-conceived … there have only been 23 cases of child trafficking in the last three years. We have asked (home affairs) to name one (other) country that has the unabridged birth certificate requirement, but they can’t name any,” Mr Frost said.

The drop in ticket sales to the country was bad news for South African Airways (SAA), he said.

“Spare a thought for SAA. They are trying to restructure … but how will they get out of this hole?”

The Democratic Alliance said that the Iata numbers proved that the new visa regulations must be withdrawn. Attempts to get comment from the Department of Home Affairs were unsuccessful.

A Grant Thornton study, commissioned by the Tourism Business Council of SA, estimated that the country could have 100,000 fewer visitors this year.

This could translate into about 9,300 jobs being shed and a total net loss to gross domestic product of about R4.1bn.

Grant Thornton Advisory Services said the sector was entering its first serious crisis and attributed this to the Ebola pandemic in West Africa, the economic slowdown in some source countries and the implementation of the new visa rules.

Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said last month that only 19,104 Chinese tourists had visited SA, which represented a 38% decline compared with last year.



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