This year South African holidaymakers’ top international holiday destinations have included London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York. With the average spend on an international trip rising, the added cost of travel visa applications and the risks associated with being denied a visa are increasingly becoming an area of concern, especially as many countries tighten entry controls.
While the cost of visa applications varies widely, a travel visa for Europe will cost South African passport holders over R600, and more than R1000 for the UK and USA. The most expensive visa for South Africans is the Nigerian visa with fees ranging from R3000 to R6000 for a single trip. With application fees in most cases being non-refundable if the visa is denied, travelling abroad has become a financial gamble for most South African passport holders.
A recent survey carried out by Travelstart - South Africa’s largest online travel agency - highlights the concerns of South African travellers with over 80% saying they would travel more if there were less visa restrictions, especially as more than half risk paying for their flights before getting their visa approved.
The list of countries that are visa-free for South African passport holders is alarmingly short, with only a handful of countries in South America, Southern Africa and South East Asia readily accessible without visas. The US, Europe, Northern Africa and Central/Southern Asia remain difficult to obtain visas for, and the visa application process often requires pre-booked flights.
At its recent board meeting The World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA) resolved to urge governments to streamline visa processes to encourage flow of travellers around the world. Around a third of travellers surveyed by Travelstart stated they try to avoid destinations requiring a travel visa and felt that South Africans were unfairly prejudiced against in the restrictions placed on their travel.
In an effort to encourage ease of travel for South African passport holders, Travelstart has released a unique travel product – the “Visa Denied service”. The service covers travellers for the cost of their international flights booked through Travelstart in the event that their visa is denied.
Travelstart Head of Marketing Linda Hellqvist says, “Too often we’ve seen how disappointing these strict travel visa regulations can be and we really listen to the concerns of our customers. Our “Visa Denied service” has fast become a popular product and we are thrilled to further strengthen our position as South Africa's principal provider of end-to-end travel solutions.”
The online offering is supported by a customer service team and experienced travel agents that deal with custom holiday packages as well as over-the-phone enquiries. Travelstart also operates in Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and Turkey.
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