Advise your Greece-bound clients…

Tourists travelling to Greece have raised concerns about the impact a financial collapse will have on their travel plans.

Media reports confirm that the country’s stock exchange and banks were closed after the European Central Bank (ECB) said that further credit to Greece was being refused after the eurozone rejected further bailouts. Further reports add that Greek citizens have been queuing up at ATMs to draw cash, although they can currently only withdraw up to €60 a day.

The nation will be holding a referendum to vote whether it will remain in the eurozone. If Greece votes no, tourists are being told not to worry as the impact will be marginal. Tourism companies will likely continue to quote rates, and accept payment, in euros for the benefit of visitors from the single currency area.

Government Advisories

The UK Foreign Office latest advice states: “Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice. Make sure you have enough Euros in cash to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays.”

The US Embassy in Athens has said: “Citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.”

The Government of Canada has issued the following advisory: “Banks in Greece are expected to be closed from June 29 to July 7, 2015. Withdrawals have been restricted to 60 EUR per day until further notice. Expect long lines at ABMs and a shortage of hard currency throughout the country. Plan to have more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards) and ensure they have enough cash to cover unexpected travel expenses.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for its part issued an advisory saying:” Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs throughout Greece could become limited at short notice. Daily ATM withdrawal limits do not currently apply to most major foreign debit/credit cards. Make sure you have more than one means of payment with you (cash,debit cards, credit cards), and make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays. Petrol stations may not accept credit card payments. The level of the advice has not changed.”

Media Reports

Advice for travellers

  • €60 restriction on withdrawals does not apply to people who hold bank cards from outside of Greece although there are reports that some ATMs have run out of money and are no longer able to dispense cash.
  • Cash will be the best form of currency for travellers, although multiple means of payment are advised.
  • Take extra security precautions carrying cash. Use safes and deposit boxes to store cash and split money between family members so that no traveller carries too much around with them.

 

Immigration Reg Debate Rages on …

The face of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has become an all too familiar face of late as the furore around the immigration and visa regulations really begins to hot up.

This time, the Department of Home Affairs, which normally takes two months to hand over tourism and migration statistics to Statistics SA (which in turn takes about three months to interpret them), has managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in a bid to counter the negative publicity questioning the logic of the recently introduced regulations.

The DHA astonishingly released the first three weeks of June tourist arrival statistics in a matter of a few days. At last! We’re dealing with some valid form of statistic, although in the DHA’s opinion the drop is “not as significant” as the tourism sector has “opportunistically” claimed and actually the economic decline and Ebola should also be examined as causes behind any downturn. http://bit.ly/1KcdQXr

Immigration reg debate rages on

Malusi+Gigaba+xxxThe face of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has become an all too familiar face of late as the furore around the immigration and visa regulations really begins to hot up.

This time, the Department of Home Affairs, which normally takes two months to hand over tourism and migration statistics to Statistics SA (which in turn takes about three months to interpret them), has managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in a bid to counter the negative publicity questioning the logic of the recently introduced regulations.

The DHA astonishingly released the first three weeks of June tourist arrival statistics in a matter of a few days. At last! We’re dealing with some valid form of statistic, although in the DHA’s opinion the drop is “not as significant” as the tourism sector has “opportunistically” claimed and actually the economic decline and Ebola should also be examined as causes behind any downturn.

Let’s hope our inbound tourism colleagues continue to benefit from such a speedy tourism stats turnaround in future!

Meanwhile the outpouring of criticism against the regulations continues:

Cullinan Holdings CE Michael Tollman describes the situation as “no-win chaos”, while countries like Kenya and Mauritius reap the benefits of increased tourist arrivals from markets that South Africa is experiencing reduced demand from, like China.

And Gavin Tollman, global Travcorp CEO, in his most recent blogpost says the Government of South Africa has “remarkably and irresponsibly formed new laws, which will deter tourism, with total disregard to their consequence and without dialogue with the industry”. Gavin cites other nations that are investing in tourism and in fact simplifying their visa and immigration regulations to attract tourists. Yes, even security conscious countries like Australia and the USA seem to be able to balance their stringent security requirements with the economic imperatives of growing tourism.

Grant Thornton Report

The Grant Thornton report was released to the press this week in a briefing by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and has sparked a plethora of articles about the R4.1bn expected loss to South Africa’s economy as thousands of jobs are lost.

We’re even becoming infamous in the international press. Huffington Post reports that “South Africa’s tourism sector is in crisis” as the new regulations have prompted “dramatic falls in arrivals”, particularly from the world’s largest source of tourists: China. The number of Chinese visitors to South Africa has reportedly plunged 32% since last year.

The reports are also highlighting the concerns and confusion surrounding the “unclear and ambiguous” regulations because there is no specification around which documents are required. To add to the confusion, the Department of Home Affairs has now released a sixth version of its Standard Operating Procedures without highlighting what’s actually changed.

In Social Media, the debate falls largely into two camps: “Tourism and Travel stakeholders are being insensitive and are more interested in their pockets than in the safety of our children” vs “The DHA’s regulations are illogical and will have dire consequences not only on the industry, but also the country’s economy.”

visa regulations    Twitter Search

visa regulations    Twitter Search

For now, as an outbound travel sector, it is more difficult than it has been for the inbound tourism sector to quantify the actual impact seen in our businesses. We do not have government-issued departure statistics that would clearly define any economic impact.

ASATA will be releasing a survey next week to our members to try and quantify just how significant an effect the requirement for unabridged birth certificates has had on South African families’ appetite to travel. We encourage you all to participate so that we have concrete statistics to define the extent of the issue and to continue our efforts to find a solution that balances South Africa’s need to guard against the scourge of child trafficking with the need to grow tourism and travel’s contribution to the economy.

Join us in our call for #nobirthcerts!

 

Probe as visa law row hots up

The debacle over SA’s new stringent visa regulations has taken a turn, with Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom telling MPs on Wednesday that a survey would be used to assess the scale of the devastation to the tourism industry. http://bit.ly/1N5DlJV

 

IATA rolls back Cabin OK initiative

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it was pausing the rollout of its Cabin OK initiative and beginning a comprehensive reassessment in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America. This will include further engagement with program participants, the IATA membership, and key stakeholders.

The Cabin OK initiative was launched on 9 June 2015 with the aim of providing passengers with greater assurance that their carry-on bags will travel with them in the aircraft cabin, even when the flight is full. The initiative provides consumers with a voluntary option to use a Cabin OK labeled bag (with optimally sized dimensions of 55 x 35 x 20 cm or 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5″ inches) that would (1) be immediately recognizable as complying with the vast majority of airline maximum size requirements for cabin baggage and (2) be given a priority (determined by airlines individually) to remain in the cabin on full flights when cabin storage capacity is exceeded.

Interest in the Cabin OK program has been intense. While the value of this initiative has been welcomed by many, including a growing list of airlines expressing interest in the program, there has also been much confusion. In North America particularly, there have been significant concerns raised in the media and by key stakeholders.

“Our focus is on providing travelers with an option that would lead to a simplified and better experience. While many welcomed the Cabin OK initiative, significant concerns were expressed in North America. Cabin OK is a voluntary program for airlines and for consumers. This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers. We need to get it right. Today we are pausing the rollout and launching a comprehensive reassessment of the Cabin OK program with plans to further engage program participants, the rest of our members, and other key stakeholders,” said Tom Windmuller, Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

IATA reiterated some key principles of the Cabin OK initiative which will continue to guide the reassessment: Cabin OK is a guideline for an optimally sized cabin bag, not an industry standard. Cabin OK does not seek to define a maximum size for carry-on bags, which is something each airline does individually. And no consumer will be forced into buying a new bag as a result of this voluntary initiative.

IATA rolls back Cabin OK initiative

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it was pausing the rollout of its Cabin OK initiative and beginning a comprehensive reassessment in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America. This will include further engagement with program participants, the IATA membership, and key stakeholders.

The Cabin OK initiative was launched on 9 June 2015 with the aim of providing passengers with greater assurance that their carry-on bags will travel with them in the aircraft cabin, even when the flight is full. The initiative provides consumers with a voluntary option to use a Cabin OK labeled bag (with optimally sized dimensions of 55 x 35 x 20 cm or 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5″ inches) that would (1) be immediately recognizable as complying with the vast majority of airline maximum size requirements for cabin baggage and (2) be given a priority (determined by airlines individually) to remain in the cabin on full flights when cabin storage capacity is exceeded.

Interest in the Cabin OK program has been intense. While the value of this initiative has been welcomed by many, including a growing list of airlines expressing interest in the program, there has also been much confusion. In North America particularly, there have been significant concerns raised in the media and by key stakeholders.

“Our focus is on providing travelers with an option that would lead to a simplified and better experience. While many welcomed the Cabin OK initiative, significant concerns were expressed in North America. Cabin OK is a voluntary program for airlines and for consumers. This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers. We need to get it right. Today we are pausing the rollout and launching a comprehensive reassessment of the Cabin OK program with plans to further engage program participants, the rest of our members, and other key stakeholders,” said Tom Windmuller, Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

IATA reiterated some key principles of the Cabin OK initiative which will continue to guide the reassessment: Cabin OK is a guideline for an optimally sized cabin bag, not an industry standard. Cabin OK does not seek to define a maximum size for carry-on bags, which is something each airline does individually. And no consumer will be forced into buying a new bag as a result of this voluntary initiative.

Reaction to Immigration Regulations

ASATA refutes Cabinet’s assertion that immigration regs have had ‘unintended consequences’

ASATA has issued a joint press statement with the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) following the announcement yesterday that Cabinet would establish an inter-ministerial team to examine the ‘unintended consequences’ of the immigration regulations. http://bit.ly/1JZ0wam

Global travel agent associations slam SA’s new visa regs

The head of two of the world’s biggest travel and tour operator groupings on Tuesday slammed South Africa’s new visa regulations as a measure to scare off all families from travelling to South Africa. http://bit.ly/1L0GRXI

‘Unitended consequences’ resulting from Immigration Regulations a misnomer, say Travel Associations

JOHANNESBURG, 12 JUNE 2015 – Associations representing the interests of inbound tourism to and outbound travel from South Africa have dubbed the Cabinet’s assertion that the new immigration regulations have had “unintended consequences” as a misnomer.

The Cabinet announced yesterday that an inter-ministerial task team, led by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, would be established to look at matters pertaining to the implementation of the immigration regulations with a view to striking a balance between South Africa’s economic development and its security needs.

Both the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) and Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) are encouraged that consultation is finally taking place, but remain disappointed that the review is limited to issues around implementation, and not an amendment to or an abolishment of the regulations, whose impact has had wide-reaching effects particularly on the inbound industry that has seen a 32% decline in air tickets sold to South Africa alone.

The notion of ‘unintended consequences’, believe ASATA and SATSA, is a complete misnomer. The impending impact on inbound tourism was outlined in detail in two research reports given to both the Ministries of Home Affairs and Tourism, and had the Department undertaken an economic impact assessment study, these issues would have been starkly apparent.

Says ASATA CEO Otto De Vries: “Since the regulations were announced early last year, we have had little to no engagement with or consultation from Home Affairs on the lasting impact the implementation of these immigration regulations would have on the tourism sector, which supports one in seven jobs in South Africa.”

“We will regardless work within the review process and once again provide data and documented proof to the relevant authorities on the impact that the tourism sector is seeing and is projected to see. It would appear, that we have to prove we are on our knees before government will listen to the tourism sector,” concludes David Frost, CEO SATSA.