President Cyril Ramaphosa believes radically overhauling frustrating visa regulations and tackling crime will help grow SA’s tourism industry.
He was speaking at the final day of Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Durban International Convention Centre on Saturday, where he received a rousing welcome from international and local delegates.
The president, who was visiting KwaZulu-Natal for the third time in two weeks, was also expected to attend ANC rallies on the north coast on Saturday, in a final push to garner votes ahead of the general elections on May 8.
Kitted out in a suit and tie, Ramaphosa joked that he wanted to wear a Madiba shirt but was advised to look “presidential”.
Ramaphosa told hundreds of delegates that SA and Africa had to address and overcome a number of challenges in order to boost the tourism market.
Among the more pressing challenges, he said, was the need to “reduce the onerous and often unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists who want to visit our countries face.”
He said if tourists were held back by red tape, they would immediately give up and go to another destination.
“This clearly requires that we should streamline our tourist visa regimes and as SA we are committed to working towards the African Union’s goal of a visa free travel dispensation and a single African air transport market.
“We are in the process of overhauling, in a very radical way, our visa dispensation, for the rest of the world and introducing a world class e-visa system.”
Ramaphosa said the other major challenge when it come to tourism, was the issue of crime.
“We must deal with another major challenge, a challenge which was well articulated to me by the president of China who said to me that many Chinese tourists want to come to South Africa and Africa, but the issue that is holding them back is crime.
“He said, ‘address crime and you will see millions of people from the Asian part of the world coming to South Africa and Africa with many dollars in their hands’.
“We have to deal with crime and counter the perception that Africa is an unsafe tourist destination.”
He said it was imperative that resources be devoted to “tackling acts of criminality, particularly crimes that are committed against tourists”.
“We are going to be enforcing that there should be more safety for our tourists who come to our country.”
He said quite often in government, departments worked in silos in SA, like the home affairs and tourism ministries.
“There has always been that temptation that they work separately.
“My take is that we need more intergovernmental work so that all government departments should be focused on a national effort of promoting a growth industry such as tourism.”
Following his address, Ramaphosa embarked on a walkabout, where he was mobbed by supporters and fans who used the opportunity to greet home and snap a few selfies.