South Africa announces launch of pilot e-visa programme for Indian travellers


With the aim of reinforcing and strengthening tourism ties between India and South Africa, South African Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Sthembiso Dlamini, Chief Operating Officer – South African Tourism, visited India. The high-level delegation engaged with key representatives of the travel and tourism ecosystem and reiterated commitment to enhance destination-marketing support in India, its 8th largest international source market.

The newly appointed Minister, along with the COO charted out the tourism board’s India-specific growth strategy for the New Year. As South African Tourism sets its sights on doubling international tourist arrivals from 10.5 million to 21 million by 2030, India is expected to play a significant role in achieving this long-term goal. From January to October 2019, the destination welcomed 81,316 Indian visitors to South Africa – a 5.48% Year-on-Year increase. Average length of stay saw an 8% Year-on-Year increase in the first half of 2019 from 25 nights to 27 nights. Total Indian traveller spends in the first half of 2019 were at a four year high with South African Tourism achieving 64% of its annual spends target within this period.

“India continues to remain one of our key focus markets globally and it is encouraging to observe consistent, upward growth from multiple evolving and matured markets in the country. With more and more visitors citing South Africa’s scenic natural beauty as reasons to visit, we are focussed in our efforts towards opening up newer geographies in our country. This will serve a dual objective of catering to this very consumer demand as well as offering a diversity of itinerary options for our trade partners to sell,” said Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head, MEISEA, South African Tourism.

In 2019, South Africa piloted a new e-visa system in New Zealand. On successful completion, there is intention to begin rolling-out e-visas in other countries, with India being amongst top priority markets. With the aim to further stimulate travel and tourism from India, the Minister indicated that the piloting of e-visas for the market was under serious consideration and would be initiated shortly. This comes close on the heels of an initiative launched in 2018 pre-vetted visas for top tour operators to fast-track visa processing.

In November 2019, the South African Minister of Home Affairs announced that the country was doing away – with immediate effect – the need for unabridged birth certificates previously required by minors visiting from international countries.

South African Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced that, “South Africa has taken several measures to provide ease of access to Indian tourists including bringing changes in the visa regime. The online visa application system pilot testing will happen from next week and if the pilot project goes without any glitch, a full roll out will take place from April 1, 2020. We have a positive outlook for the India market and are also in talks with India for granting multiple-entry visa to South Africa.”

“MICE and sports tourism are predicted to drive arrivals growth for South Africa. South Africa has also emerged as a popular wedding destination for Indians. The South African government is also exploring interests from third country airlines willing to operate direct flights on the India-South Africa routes and any relevant proposals would be discussed with the Indian government,” added the Minister.

From January to September 2019, MICE accounted for 24% of the Indian traveller visits. 43% of overall Indian arrivals to South Africa were repeat visitors. 2019 witnessed a 36.6% increase in Indian traveller spends on shopping and a 26% increase in spends on leisure activities in South Africa.

While business and leisure traveller segments continue to drive footfalls to South Africa, the tourism board has witnessed a steady rise in MICE groups from India. Given the tourism business MICE is capable of driving, this segment is a key focus area for South African Tourism in 2020.