A SOUTH Africa-based tourist board has urged Sadc member countries to introduce universal visas and harmonise their laws to increase tourist activities in the region.
Durban Tourism chief executive officer Phillip Sithole told NewsDay at Top Gear annual motoring festival in Durban at the weekend that there was need for the Sadc region to set up infrastructure and harmonise laws to ensure tourists were able to traverse the whole region in a single visit.
Sithole also said there was need to market Sadc as a single tourist destination.
“It is easy to visit Durban in the morning, Harare in the afternoon and experience the night life in Botswana on the same day. It is not something that is not impossible if laws and infrastructure are available,” Sithole said.
He said Sadc could come up with a tourism plan similar to that used by European countries that offered visitors with a Schengen visa to visit as many countries in the bloc as possible.
Sithole said Durban alone was realising about R9,7 billion (about $970 million) from the current 3,8 million tourist arrivals annually.
Of the 3,8 million tourists, 633 000 were international while the rest where from provinces in South Africa.
The seaside city, Sithole said, had set aside $92 million every year to be used to market the city as a tourist destination while several billions would also be invested in infrastructure.
Several events like the horse race Vodacom Durban July, the top-gear motoring festival, the Durban international boat and lifestyle show and the popular dancing festival, Fact Durban Rocks, among others, were lined up every year to boost tourism in Durban, with the Top gear festival and Durban July attracting over
70 000 and 100 000 visitors respectively.
Tourism in South Africa, Sithole said, contributed R197 billion (about $19 billion) to the national economy, with 73% of the revenue coming from regional tourists.
He said regional countries could benefit from the tourism traffic to South Africa if a regional tourism bloc was created.