TBCSA says Home Affairs has plan to ease peak season airport congestion

According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has considered its recommendations to ease traffic flow and the level and congestion at the country’s international airport in the upcoming festive season, and is willing to engage further, through the Immigrations Advisory Board (IAB), on the redrafting of regulations to travel facilitation for minors.

“The TBCSA has learned of government’s intention to implement a Festive Season Intervention Plan, that will be geared towards easing the level of congestion and delays at immigration counters – especially at OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport,” said the TBCSA in a media statement.

TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela, says although the full details of this plan are yet to be accounced, the TBCSA welcomes government’s efforts and stands ready to provide additional logistical support where required. “We don’t have the full details of how this plan will unfold, however we are ready to support government as best as we can. We are keen to hear the details of the plan, particularly the extent to which it will be implemented to coincide with the tourism peak season (which goes beyond the December holiday season) and the specifics around how the plan will be managed.”

Earlier this month, TBCSA proposed a number of short- to medium-term interventions that could be adopted to address the challenges of airport congestion and delays; and the uncertainty around the requirement for unabridged birth certificates (UBCs).

 Congestion and delays at airports

On addressing the level of congestion at our airports, TBCSA proposed the introduction of ushers to assist tourists at the immigration zones and to help in directing them to the correct immigration queues. In addition, the Council suggested that refreshments such as water and other snacks, as well as information leaflets or brochures pertaining to their visit to South Africa, be made available at the immigration zones.

TBCSA has further proposed that some South African Police Services (SAPS) officers be temporarily deployed to assist departing visitors at the emigration zones and to move the DHA officials to the immigration zones to assist the arriving visitors (as was done during the 2010 Soccer World Cup). This will temporarily increase the staffing capacity in the arrivals section and alleviate the current congestion.

“With regards to the activation of what we in tourism call the ‘soft’ short-term solutions that we have proposed, these are still under consideration. However, at the heart of the matter is the human resource challenge that DHA is facing. In this regard, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) has informed us that they are in the process of setting up a meeting with DHA and other relevant departments to resolve the issue of resourcing of officials at airports”, Ramawela said.

Travel facilitation for minors

On the second immigrations issue of regulating the movement of minors coming from visa-exempt countries, TBCSA maintains that the establishment of the IAB was a positive development. The Council is particularly encouraged by the IAB’s willingness to engage further on the redrafting of the regulations. Currently, the regulation states that parents ‘’may be required’’ to present UBCs on arrival into South Africa.

TBCSA’s main concern with the current wording of the regulation (which was raised at a recent meeting with the IAB) is that it is vague, open to interpretation and leads to even more confusion on the ground. In response, the IAB asked the TBCSA to suggest alternate wording for the UBC regulations.

Ramawela says the Council is currently canvassing its members for inputs in crafting the alternate wording for regulations on the movement of minors and when ready, they will be duly submitted to the IAB. “We will table the industry’s suggestions in redrafting the regulations to the IAB in the coming weeks – well ahead of the holidays”.

“TBCSA remains committed to working with its members and all other stakeholders to address and resolve the immigration issues that have unintentionally made South Africa less accessible to an even larger number of international tourists. Tourism is a critical sector of our national economy and it is vital that we join hands to address and solve any issues that stand in its way of delivering the possible benefits. This is a sector that if nurtured, can continue its robust contribution to job creation for all our people and inclusive growth of the national economy”, concludes Ramawela.