Visa challenges paint SA as an unwelcoming destination, says FEDHASA

Coastal resorts in Cape Town are a favourite destination for ‘swallows’ seeking refuge in the country during the European winter. Picture: Unsplash

Coastal resorts in Cape Town are a favourite destination for ‘swallows’ seeking refuge in the country during the European winter. Picture: Unsplash

Published Mar 20, 2024


Following Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s statement on the leaking of the department’s internal circular on visas, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) has said that though the circular was intended for internal use, it has had severe consequences for travel to South Africa.

According to FEDHASA National Chairperson Rosemary Anderson, the statement caused jitters among the so-called “swallows”, tourists who migrate seasonally in search of warmer climates, and dented the image of South Africa’s tourism sector.

In a recent media briefing, the minister came out in defence of his department and said that Home Affairs would never do anything to jeopardise or risk the tourism industry in the country.

“The ministry of home affairs and the ministry of tourism always work in partnership on issues of tourism because both departments are important in this regard,” said the home affairs minister.

He said that that circular shouldn’t have been issued, as the matters it was trying to clarify could’ve easily been addressed in the normal course of operations between the Border Management Authority and the Department.

In response to the Dr Motsoaledi, Anderson said that the delay in addressing and retracting the circular allowed for widespread dissemination of negative experiences, solidifying a perception of South Africa as unwelcoming.

The official representative of South Africa’s hospitality industry said that incident may not only have affected the immediate plans of many international visitors but has also sown seeds of doubt about South Africa’s openness as a tourist destination.

“This incident underscores a recurrent theme in our visa regime history - well-meaning policies that inadvertently deter tourism and tarnish our reputation on the global stage,” said Anderson.

She said that the specific targeting of “swallows” who contribute significantly to the country’s economy through extended stays, highlights a missed opportunity in the country’s visa policies.

“These individuals, who seek refuge from the harsh European winters, are not merely tourists but are economic contributors who invest their time and resources into our local communities and businesses,” said Anderson.

FEDHASA said that there is a need for a more accommodating visa policy, one that recognises the value and potential of such long-term visitors.

The discussion should not just revolve around rectifying the fallout of the circular but should also prompt a broader reassessment of our visa policies.

“Creating a more flexible and welcoming visa environment, especially for tourists from countries with a strong track record of compliance and economic contribution, could be transformative for the sector,” said Anderson.