The DA in the Western Cape is concerned about reports of Language Schools being shut down because onerous regulations prevents students getting visas.
The English Foreign Language (EFL) tourism sector currently attracting around 20 000 students and contributing more than R800m to the economy is now in trouble. While the general tourism sector has seen growth of 16% in the first quarter this year, South African Language Schools has seen a 10% drop. This is happening while countries like Australia and New Zealand are seeing an increase in arrivals of English language learners. The Association of Language Travel Associations (ALTO) estimated in 2006 that the global impact of language schools on local economies were US$8 billion. South Africa’s contribution to the global language travel market is currently only 1%, but it is estimated to double over the next 10 years, if this rings true the potential contribution for our economy could be US$160 million by 2024.
I will write to the National Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, who sits on the inter-ministerial committee, to deal with the onerous visa regulations that have a negative impact on the economy and request him to urgently assist to help save the foreign language tourism industry, and find meaningful solutions in order to revive this growing sector.
The Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture tabled a report in 2014, which warned against the consequences for the EFL Schools in South Africa if the new visa regulations was implemented. The warnings have sadly proven to be true. In 2014 the industry estimated that EFL tourist arrivals would increase by 25% in 2015 and a further 6% in 2016. The ensuing result has been that instead of creating jobs, the EFL industry now will have to retrench workers. The committee report was tabled after a series of public hearings, and called for the scrapping of the regulations until such time as a full Regulatory Impact Assessment of the legislation on the economy was completed. It stands to reason that if this had this been conducted prior to the regulations being promulgated, we would not have had such a negative impact on the industry to begin with. The National Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom has also taken a firm stance against the so called unintended consequences of its implementation.
When a foreign student wishes to be granted a student visa, he/she must satisfy a host of conditions including the following:
- proof of full payment of his/her course before EFL issues a Letter of Acceptance (LOA)
- proof of accommodation whilst in SA
- proof of funds for living expenses
- a return flight ticket or proof of funds to purchase it
- proof of insurance for health cover
It is highly unlikely that anyone meeting these criteria’s pose any threat to our country. Again we see how the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba’s stubbornness leads to job losses and missed opportunities for economic growth.
The DA welcomes the positive developments in the tourism sector, as it proves that with the right regulatory environment our economy can grow. It is therefore crucial that the National Government meets with the industry so that we can create even more jobs and opportunities in the tourism sector.
Beverley Schäfer, MPP
DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture