In June, South Africa rolled out tough new visa regulations requiring children travelling into the country to carry unabridged birth certificates, a move that industry experts predict will badly damage the tourism sector.

The revised regulations dictate that children of all nationals and foreigners must be accompanied by unabridged birth certificates in addition to their passports when entering or leaving the country.

The new regulations apply only to children travelling with one parent and those arriving from visa-exempt countries. The government says the measure is aimed at curbing international child trafficking.

But the tourism industry, which contributes 9% to the country’s GDP and employs around 1.5 million people, said the regulations were too cumbersome and would drive tourists away from South Africa. The chamber of commerce said airlines were “doing all they can” to prepare travellers “but their efforts have been frustrated by bureaucratic bungling”.

Citing official ticketing data, the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) said flight bookings to South Africa this June plunged 20% compared to the same period last year, a fall blamed partially on the new rules.

“Who is going to go to all this trouble to come on holiday to South Africa,” asked David Frost, the head of Satsa.

“They would rather say let’s go to New Zealand, Mauritius or Puerto Rico, where they are more welcome.”

Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said the legislation had come into effect without major problems.

“For the most part, it’s going well. We haven’t had any issues out of the ordinary,” Tswete said.

The tourism industry is considering taking legal action against the government for loss of business.

“We have been forced into a corner and we are a large sector. We will not sit quietly in a corner and watch our industry being destroyed by heavy-handed bureaucrats,” said Frost. – AFP Relaxnews