Cape Town’s tourism industry is banking on domestic travel to boost visitor numbers this summer, as the sector continues to feel the effects of contentious visa rules.
While the visa regulations were revised two weeks ago following deliberations by a special inter-ministerial task team, the changes are yet to come into force.
"So it will have little impact on the upcoming holiday season, unfortunately," said Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy. The industry would have to take a long-term approach to its marketing strategies, he said, as the rules would continue to have a negative effect on international visitors who planned travel in advance.
World Travel and Tourism Council CEO David Scowsill has urged the government to quickly implement the visa changes.
After months of intense lobbying by major players in the tourism sector, the government announced towards the end of last month that some of the more onerous aspects of the visa regulations, such as the documentation required when travelling with minors, were going to be eased.
In-bound travellers accompanied by minors will no longer be required to produce an unabridged birth certificate, and prospective visitors will not have to apply for visas in person at South African foreign missions in their home countries.
In Brics countries China, Russia and India, which are large and would require tourists to travel vast distances to appear at a mission, tourism companies will be accredited to apply on their behalf.
"Fortunately, domestic travel is where the bulk of our season lies in Cape Town, so we anticipate a fair to good season," Mr Duminy said.
The summer period in Cape Town stretches from November to March and is popular among tourists. Tourism is a major money spinner for Cape Town’s economy, and is estimated to have brought in R14bn in 2013.
The sector contributes about 10% to the Western Cape’s gross domestic product.
The figures come from a 2013 Grant Thornton study, which was commissioned by the city. The study also showed that the city’s tourism industry had about 34,500 permanent jobs and 15,000 part-time workers.