Revised visa regulations set tone for upbeat 2016 for South African tourism industry

Posted on January 25th, 2016

Revised visa regulations set tone for upbeat 2016

The tourism industry is upbeat about 2016 following the revision of the amended South African visa regulations in October last year.

This is according to Bruce Deneys, director of sales and marketing at Pepperclub Hotel & Spa – a R400 million, five-star luxury hotel and spa based in Cape Town.

Deneys says while Cape Town enjoyed a good festive season, the revised regulations, which required visitors to apply for visas in person and children under 18 to produce unabridged birth certificates, has given the industry cause to look forward to higher tourist numbers and larger revenues over the coming year.

Reflecting on the 2015 / 2016 festive season

Many hotels, according to Deneys, reported high occupancy levels over December and January, while other establishments operating in the industry, such as retailers and restaurants also benefited from the knock-on effects.

He adds that Table Mountains’ Aerial Cableway and other popular tourist attractions such as the V&A Waterfront, reported a record season with Robben Island experiencing a 43% increase in visitors during December 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

He says, “The favourable exchange rate and increased tourists’ spending power for many overseas travellers was definitely a pull factor over the period.”

The tourism industry was also supported by the growth in the city’s film industry, Deneys says.

“We are seeing a definite increase in the number of production companies choosing Cape Town as a shooting location. Not only do they contribute to the tourism sector, but also towards revenue for the city and job creation,” he says.

Face of the changing market

Deneys says they have, over the last few months, noticed a decrease in the Chinese and Indian markets visiting the hotel and an increase in visitors from Europe and the UK.

He adds, “We also saw an increase in local travellers, which is a direct result of the current weak rand and limited spending power for South Africans travelling abroad. They are instead opting to travel locally.”

Looking ahead at 2016

Deneys says that the challenges that accompanied obtaining a visa and led to certain markets opting to visit alternative holiday destinations despite the favourable exchange rate for tourists in 2015, are expected to lessen.

“Markets such as the UK and US, for example, place high importance on family travel, therefore with the revision to the visa requirements, we expect these markets to relook at the country in 2016.”

The increasing number of both business and leisure events taking place locally are anticipated to boost tourism further in 2016, according to Deneys.

“Not only will this generate extra revenue for tourism as delegates travel across borders to attend expos and conferences, but it will also have a knock-on effect for associated businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, as well as aid in further job creation,” he says.

“Based on the 2015 / 2016 festive season and continued favourable exchange rates for tourists, we expect the tourism industry to pick up again in 2016, and the increased demand for accommodation in the country to continue into the year,” Deneys concludes.