South Africa’s tourist destinations attract millions of travelers every year. The tourism sector brings in an estimated $10 billion to the economy and employs millions across the country.
When COVID-19 reached South Africa, the country faced major setbacks in the tourism industry. Before the pandemic hit, international visitors spent over $30 000 per minute traveling across the country. Those numbers are now in decline and the tourism industry is in search of new ways to make up for the lost time.
How can South Africa revive its tourism industry?
Industry leaders at the World Travel Market Africa event in Cape Town, South Africa are convinced that the antidote to the ailing tourism sector is the fast-tracking of digital nomad visas. This ambitious visa regime would allow international remote workers to stay in the country for longer than 90 days and up to a year in total.
“There are a number of destinations that have done this like Dubai, Greece, and Maldives. Those destinations have seen overall growth in tourism numbers,” explains Velma Corcoran, Country Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Airbnb.
“What we have done as Airbnb works closely with the Italian Ministry of Tourism to support them in lobbying for a digital nomad visa.
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, describes the remote work visa as a tool to enable economic growth. However, while this is under review by the government, South Africa faces the double threat of safety issues and skills shortages.
Crime rate in South Africa
The crime rate in South Africa affects both international and local travelers. In the last three months of 2021, murder rates increased by 8.9% and hijackings rose by 13.8%.
“We must deal with another major challenge, a challenge which was well articulated to me by the President of China who told me that many Chinese tourists want to come to South Africa and Africa, but the issue that is holding them back is a crime,” says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
If the government doesn’t work on fixing safety issues faced by South Africa, some tourists will continue to be put off by the crime statistics.
Will introducing a digital nomad visa help tourism?
As it has been proven in other countries, introducing a digital nomad visa would provide a welcome boost for the tourism industry.
Should South Africa give the visa the green light, it will become the first mainland African country to offer visitors a long-term remote visa, joining the African island nations of Mauritius, Seychelles, and Cape Verde.
While the finer details have yet to be confirmed, it is likely that there will be a minimum salary requirement for tourists applying for the visa, as well as rules regarding health insurance, proof of work, and accommodation.