New immigration regulations, the environmental impact of planned runway extensions and customer service improvement initiatives were among the issues dominating discussions when the Portfolio Committee on Tourism was briefed by the Airport Company South Africa (ACSA) on initiatives undertaken to improve tourism growth and development in South Africa.
The Chairperson of the Tourism Committee, Ms Beatrice Ngcobo, asked about the impact of the new immigration regulations on ACSA, which require children under the age of 18 entering or leaving South Africa to travel with their original unabridged birth certificates. “Over the past few weeks, since the introduction of the new immigration regulation on 1 June, there has been a public outcry about the negative impact on South African tourism of the new immigration regulations,” she said.
ACSA Assistant General Manager: Operations Mr Mark Maclean told the Committee that the impact of the new immigration on airport processes has been minimal so far, although industry-wide concerns remain. “So far, we have had two passengers who were denied entry and travellers are assisted to comply with the new regulations.”
Terminal Services Manger Mr Lebohang Motasi added: “On-going communication with passengers through agencies, airlines and immigration to ensure passengers compliance and to address concerns and a continued focus on quality service to passengers, especially families, remains a priority.” He also mentioned that “airports have built facilities for denials.”
The Committee was told that improved baggage handling has restored travellers’ confidence when travelling to South Africa. “Between 2007 and 2014 mishandled travellers baggage has been reduced by 61%,” Mr Motasi said. “We have zero tolerance on stolen and damage goods,” he told the Committee.
Committee member Mr James Vos said airports are more than transportation facilities, they are now a destination hub for tourism and trade: “We have to put strong measures in place to ensure those who travel to our country find it friendly and worthwhile and when they return home they don’t lose their personal belongings. It is important for us to understand that airports are points of attraction and a first entry point to build strong South African brand. Therefore they are a strength in marketing our country and attracting not only customers but other airliners to our country,” Mr Vos said.
Mr Maclean said ACASA is meeting with local authorities and communities to discuss runway extensions required to accommodate the bigger aeroplanes such as airbuses that are coming into use.
Infrastructure Planning Manger Ms Adele Klingenberg said three South African airports, OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, Cape Town International and King Shaka International in Durban are investing in the aerotropolis projects. “ACSA is improving infrastructure of these three airports for the next few years to ensure economic growth for the country, to increase competitiveness and to attract foreign and local investment,” Ms Klingenberg said.
“We are committed to making a difference in our community and as part of our cooperate social investment initiatives,” Mr Maclean said, adding that ACASA is committed to three pillars of airport sustainability – social, environment and financial.