South Africa considers adding visa requirement for British tourists

The British Government announced recently it would be ending its £19 million annual development aid to South Africa, a move which has prompted the South African government to consider adding a visa requirement in retribution.

South Africans visiting Britain are currently required to pay R1,190 (£80) for a UK visa but British tourists can simply obtain a visa on arrival; the UK added the visa requirement for South African nationals in 2009 amid concerns of abuse.

South Africa has since spent billions upgrading its immigration security systems in the hope of regaining visa free status and had hoped this would be granted following the London Olympics. However, the cutting of vital aid to the still-developing country has angered South African Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor.

"We had been given a promise that following the Olympics there would be a focus on whether this visa requirement can be lifted," said the minister.

"There hasn't been any movement and I think the time has come for us to consider reciprocity."

It is thought any South African visa legislation introduced would mean British tourists can face paying at least £80 for a visa simply to holiday in South Africa, a prospect tourism analysts have called 'hugely concerning' given the fact almost 450,000 British tourists visit the African nation each year.

"The relationship [between the UK and South Africa] is tetchy right now and then there was the bilateral slanging match over the aid cut," said one South African tourism operator.

"The British visa decision caused quite a bit of collateral damage. Many prominent South Africans going to the UK for sabbaticals were saying 'to hell with Britain if that's how they feel about us'."

Tourism is one of South Africa's most important industries and another Cape Town tourism operator said any effort to introduce visa requirements would see the nascent industry heading in the wrong direction.

"South African needs to streamline visa processes and access to the country, not create barriers of entry for our visitors," he said.

"It would definitely have a chilling effect."

The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in Chinese visa and immigration services.