What’s Really To Blame For Tourism Drop In Southern Africa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Botswana tourism officials are blaming a drop in tourism numbers on unreliable air service and poor ICT development.

Some South African tourist stakeholders blame their country’s drop in visitors on changes in visa requirements — a new, self-imposed barrier to entry that became effective June 1. Unabridged birth certificates have become mandatory for minors traveling with parents to and from South Africa.

Ticketing revenue in South Africa is down 26 percent for June according to the International Air Transport Association, said David Frost, CEO of South African Tourism services Association in an interview with Traveller24.

“We’ve seen this before in other countries and it’s always as a result of an outside shock such as an ash cloud or terror attack,” Frost said. “Commentators have said they’ve never before seen a country do this to itself.”

In Botswana, where tourism is down 1 percent, Botswana’s Minister of Environment and Tourism is blaming poor ICT development in tourism and unreliable air service, BizTechAfrica reports.

“Poor Information and Communication Technology has had a negative impact on the tourism sector,” said Tshekedi Khama.

Botswana’s travel and tourism suffers from a failure to invest in basic infrastructure including roads and Internet connectivity, according to a report in Euromonitor International. Botswana’s road network, in particular, “has left much of the country inaccessible to tourists, but also in new hotels and sites of tourist interest, such as safari parks and shopping facilities,” the report said.

However the report noted that there are signs the government is actively encouraging foreign private investment in the country.

The Botswana Telecommunications Corp. reduced Internet prices up to 46 percent due to reduced costs of international bandwidth and modems.

Gavin Eyre is chairman of the South African Youth Travel Confederation, an organization that markets South Africa globally as a preferred youth tourism destination.

South Africa’s new visa regulations have caused uncertainty in the marketplace and with agents all over the world, Eyre said in an interview in TourismUpdate.

“What should be an easy sell has become twice as complicated and, in some cases, impossible,” Eyre said. “We have seen the market drop considerably.”

However Eyre acknowledged that there were other contributing factors to the drop in South African tourism. These, he said, include the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and certain source markets experiencing financial problems, TourismUpdate reports.

Hanneli Slabber, head of South Africa Tourism, said tourists postponed travel plans to the country and South Africa is still feeling the economic effects of the Ebola outbreak in Central and Western Africa. “We were hit badly by the Ebola outbreak last year,” Slabber told BusinessStandard. “Through cross border campaigns, we are trying to carry the message South Africa is the least affected by Ebola.”

In the first quarter of 2015, tourists from China decreased by 38 percent compared to the previous year, according to Statistic South Africa, the official statistics agency, NDTV reports. India was down by 13 percent. South Africa’s new tourist visa requirements for unabridged birth certificates went into effect June 1, 2015.