Dublin – It could be a very important step for South Africa to join the East African regional visa initiative, according to David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
He is attending the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) in Dublin this week and told Fin24 that tourists would be more likely to visit other countries in regions if they can obtain one visa for the purpose.
Usually travel and tourism grows in regions where such single regional visas have been implemented.
“For years we have been talking about the liberalisation of African aviation. It is very important to stimulate economies and create jobs. It will also enable low-cost airlines to unlock value,” explained Scowsill.
“South Africa could show leadership in this regard. Already 25 years ago there was an agreement on open skies for Africa, but governments still operate in an isolationist way.”
In Scowsill’s view SA would do well to grow China as a source market for tourism. The Chinese tourism market is the fastest growing in the world. Every year 4 billion domestic trips are taken within China, for instance – 2.7 billion of these during the Chinese New Year.
In 2010 there were 58 million outbound international travellers from China, in 2015 this increased to 125 million and by 2017 it is estimated to reach 117 million.
“It is not just about the large number of international tourists from China, but Chinese tourists are also the highest spenders,” explained Scowsill.
“SA is the ideal attraction for them and in my view, even more will come if their visas could be processed upon arrival in SA. This could be an important strategy for the SA tourism market growth. Remember, the tourism industry is very important for economic growth and job creation.”
In general, he is in favour of the use of e-visas as people can apply for it from home. Yet, globally, it is estimated that 63% of visas are still issued as part of a paper process. He is also in favour of the type of visa waiver process used in the US, where part of the fee goes to a tourism marketing fund for the country as a whole.
“We encourage other countries like SA to look into this as well,” he said. “At the same time security must be kept at a high level, but at a level which does not allow tourism to operate by being overly intrusive.”