Parents travelling to South Africa should still carry the unabridged birth certificates of their children despite a relaxation of rules intended to end the bureaucratic nightmare endured by thousands of British families.
The country’s home affairs ministry this week warned that despite revising the regulations brought in three years ago, “travellers are urged to carry these documents because they may be requested in certain instances”.
South Africa said its home affairs and tourism ministries are in discussion with relevant airlines about how to implement the new rules, but it is understood carriers will not ask to see the documents as before. However, none of the airlines that fly from the UK to South Africa contacted by Telegraph Travel, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook, could say immediately what the new regulations meant for the documentation needed by families.
The Foreign Office has made no changes to its guidance on entry requirements to the country.
The confusion puts a damper on a move intended to boost family travel to the country, after the country experienced a stagnation in the number of British visitors over the last three years.
The rules introduced in 2015 required parents travelling with a child under the age of 18 to produce at the check-in desk a full birth certificate showing names of both parents, or, when just one parent is present, an affidavit to prove consent of the non-travelling partner.
Such was the confusion that scores of families were refused boarding at the gate, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket and their holiday plans in ruin.
Vivian McCarthy, director of Acacia Africa tour operator, said the move was positive but that the ministries “needed to get their house in order”.
“I’m sure they will as it’s a fairly new decision,” he said. “At the moment, if we had clients travelling as a family to South Africa next week we would recommend they check with the South African embassy. What else can you recommend?”
Sisa Ntshona, head of the South African tourist board, revealed the changes to Telegraph Travel last month, citing the impact on visitor numbers as the motivation.
“South Africa is always wanting to lead with its human rights initiatives,” he said, “but what if it has an unintended consequence on tourism levels?
“It’s very difficult to measure what you lost, but there was lost opportunity. We don’t know who said, ah, and did not even consider [visiting South Africa].”
Ntshona cited one “embarrassing” instance when an entire school tour of 80 children was prevented from travelling at the airport because they did not have sufficient documentation.