The latest figures provided by Statistics SA (StatsSA) on the accommodation industry reflect a total drop of R64,4-million in holiday accommodation revenues throughout South Africa in only three months, between April and June 2015. This, says James Vos, shadow minister of tourism, can be partly ascribed to the harsh visa regulations introduced last year that require in-person biometric data to be collected before the visitor departs from their home country.

“Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan, said in a stake-holders’ workshop on 18 September that the department is considering collecting biometric data on arrival from visitors to South Africa. This system needs to be implemented without further delay,” Vos says. “For every month we delay this move, millions of rands are being lost to the economy and more jobs are being lost.

“It is now time for Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, to pull out all the stops and insist on a meeting with his Home Affairs counterpart Malusi Gigaba. The ministers must, as a matter of urgency, thrash out a plan to, without further ado, adopt the biometrics on-arrival system, in which biometric testing is conducted in South Africa once visitors arrive here – and not before they depart from their home countries.

“This must be done before any more jobs and businesses shut down. Minister Hanekom should use the alarming StatsSA figures to propel Minister Gigaba to act immediately to save the tourism industry.”

Vos says he will write a letter to Hanekom to provide the Portfolio Committee on Tourism with substantive evidence as to why he has delayed doing all in his power to have the visa regulations repealed.

“Minister Gigaba should set aside the embarrassment caused to his department over this debacle for the sake of saving our tourism industry,” he adds. “Both the fate of thousands of unemployed South Africans and the country’s economy is at stake.”

Vos believes there are huge benefits to having biometrics on arrival, cutting turnaround time and streamlining tourism facilitation.