The head of two of the world’s biggest travel and tour operator groupings on Tuesday slammed South Africa’s new visa regulations as a measure to scare off all families from travelling to South Africa.
This comes as more concern was voiced at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting about the impact and effectiveness of new South African visa regulations, especially the requirement for unabridged birth certificates for minors travelling to the country.
Lars Thykier, president of the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association and managing director of the Association of Danish Travel Agents and Tour Operators, has been active in discussions about the unabridged birth certificate requirement since the issue was brought to the table in early summer 2014.
“I basically see the introduction of the unabridged birth certificate rules as a means to scare off all families from travelling to South Africa, families that would otherwise want to travel there for tourism purposes. Was that the intent?” he asked Fin24 in an exclusive interview.
Responding to the argument that if other countries require it, why not South Africa too, Thykier gave a short reply: “Nonsense.” He then expanded: “You can’t compare South Africa’s unabridged birth certificate rules with anything that’s been developed by other countries in the world in order to control tourism arrivals.”
Thykier pointed out that the country is trying to target potential traffickers by putting in place rules that are very difficult for legitimate and regular travellers to comply with. The South African government, said Thykier, is trying to solve an issue “which, all things duly considered, is not solved by introducing very restrictive legislation” to counter a problem “which is after all very limited” and has not been quantified.
Asked what he would consider a better option to address the human trafficking issue, Thykier said: “I wouldn’t want to recommend a single practice to solve a larger problem, but in terms of smugglers attempting to bring children out from or into SA illegitimately, I would like to see a government report on the issues at hand and then decide on how to solve the problem.”
Thykier added that he wondered why a country like SA would want to impose regulations on tourists that will discourage them from travelling to SA in the first place.
“Isn’t it the role of a government to try to make a country as attractive as possible to visit? SA seems to be more focused on handling an issue – child trafficking – by mock legislation that will not solve the problem at hand, rather than providing attractive entry requirements to all potential visitors.”
South Africa should realise that there are alternative travel destinations.
“And couldn’t trafficking issues be handled more effectively by other measures? I think so, and I’d be happy to assist the SA government in getting their priorities straight, because they’re obviously on a very wrong course,” said Thykier.
Carin Smith, Fin24
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