JOHANNESBURG — With the relaxation of issuing visas through tour operators, the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa increased by 50 percent in May this year, compared to the same period in 2015, according to data obtained by Xinhua on July 29.
Meanwhile, the number of tourists from India surged 37 percent, the South African Department of Tourism said.
This came after the South African government relaxed visa rules since the beginning of this year, abandoning strict regulations requiring tourists to apply visas in person.
“Those markets (in China and India) will recover quite quickly, I think, and will continue to grow,” Von Aulock of the Department of Tourism said.
But the tourism industry is still concerned about regulations requiring travelling children to present unabridged birth certificates.
The requirements for the unabridged birth certificates remain vague enough to deter some families, said Mmatsatsi Ramawela, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.
Events such as the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban earlier this month have helped increase the number of visitors, and concerns about terrorist attacks in Europe also diverted tourists to the southern hemisphere, Ramawela added.
Tourists are returning to SA’s game parks, beaches and vineyards, as a weaker rand and easing of visa rules make holidays cheaper and more accessible, he said.
The number of visitors to SA from outside the continent increased 19 percent in the first five months of this year, the Department of Tourism said.
SA’s tourism boom represents a rare note of optimism in the country whose unemployment rate is hovering around 27 percent.