CAPE TOWN, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Africa will simplify visa requirements for Chinese tourists, beginning from next month, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Wednesday.
An agreement on simplification of visa requirements with China will be implemented on October 1 this year, the minister said without elaboration.
The move is designed to "attract larger numbers of tourists, business people and family members from this country," Hanekom said.
According to Hanekom, the South African cabinet agreed last week that visa requirements should be simplified for China and India, two major tourism markets for South Africa.
Due to strict visa requirements, the number of Chinese and Indian tourists visiting South Africa has dropped significantly over the past few years.
China is now the world's number one market for foreign tourists, accounting for 70 million overseas trips last year. While other countries are opening their doors to Chinese tourists, South Africa has a very complicated visa process for them.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa declined by 17 percent last year, according to official figures.
Of South Africa's top 10 overseas tourism markets, only Indian and Chinese nationals are required to get visas.
On Tuesday, Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba announced a number of visa-related reforms which will make it easier for tourists, business people and academia to come to South Africa.
As one of the reforms, South Africa is simplifying visa requirements for countries such as China and India, said Gigaba.
"This will make provision for taking biometrics on arrival in South Africa; allowing visa applications via courier and issuing five-year multiple entry visas," Gigaba said.
Easing visa requirements is part of the economic stimulus package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
Ramaphosa said the list of countries requiring visas to enter South Africa will be reviewed, an e-visas pilot will be implemented, and the visa requirements for highly skilled foreigners will be revised.
"Tourism continues to be a great job creator and through these measures we are confident that many more tourists will visit South Africa," he said.
Tourism is now the world's fastest growing industry with over 1.3 billion people travelling internationally. In South Africa tourism has outpaced other sectors, contributing about 9 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product.