South Africa's new immigration regulations are already having grave effects on the flow of tourists into the country, particularly from one of its main growth markets – China, according to figures made available yesterday.

Michael Tollman, the CEO of tourism consulting company Cullinan Holdings, said a 70 percent drop in travel from China to South Africa is forecast due to the new immigration regulation's hasty implementation.

Furthermore, it is alleged that travel agencies in China have resorted to diverting clients eager to travel to South Africa to visit other African nations instead.

Members at the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) have already reported a number of cancellations, further proving that South Africa's tourism sector is at stake due to the new immigration regulations' implementation.

Since the Department of Home Affairs implemented the new regulations in late May, there has been an avalanche of criticism and confusion.

The regulations require visa applicants to collect their visas in person. It also stipulates that all South African children must travel with an unabridged birth certificate showing the names of the parents, and where one parent is not travelling with the child, an affidavit is also required.

Opponents say the regulation does not only affect South African travellers, but also impacts tourist flows to the country.

James Vos, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Tourism, said that "this would mean that the new visa regulations are killing South Africa's tourism industry and cutting the country off from access to one of our key growth markets."

"We will continue to submit these questions on a regular basis to continually monitor tourism figures," Vos said in a statement.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba last week defended the much criticised new immigration regulations, saying the act was meant to boost security in the country.

"We would not want a situation where criminals do as they like," the minister said.

He said his department has to ensure that it regulates international migration in the national interest and in the interest of national security.

One purpose of the new regulation was to ensure that everyone who enters or leaves the country has relevant paperwork and that they are treated humanely, Gigaba said. – Xinhua.

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