Tourism stakeholders were invited by parliament’s Portfolio committees on Tourism and Police to address tourist safety in South Africa.

The workshop, which was held yesterday, was initiated by government in the wake of recent attacks, including the armed robbery at Mount Nelson and the murder of a Ukrainian tourist at Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town, which both made international headlines.

Blacky Komani, Chairman of Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), told MPs these incidents have led to a “material loss of tourism bookings”.

Snap surveys of tourism operators revealed that another concern was tourists being followed from airports and robbed. Fifty such cases were reported over the past three years.

A desktop survey in Mpumalanga, which is home to the Kruger National Park, revealed at least 10 tourists were hijacked between June and July this year, he said.

He told MPs one of the key shortcomings was not responding adequately following incidents. “One of the issues that we don’t do well is to deal with a crisis and communicate correctly when a crisis happens.”

Feedback was well-received, Komani told Tourism Update. “There is a seriousness from government to address safety and security issues. It was acknowledged that something has to be done, particularly if we want to achieve tourism growth targets set for 2030.

“Government is not shying away and plans to tackle these problems head-on.”

TBCSA is engaging with Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane to see if part of the levies collected from operators are not just used for marketing but go towards creating infrastructure, like cameras and a monitoring centre, to deal with crime targeting tourists.

“Joint collaboration between the public and private sector is critical. We need to work together to come up with solutions,” Komani said.

“We are prepared to put money in and work with the SA Police Service and department of tourism to combat crime.”

Wesgro, also invited to the joint meetings, presented its tourism safety communications plan. “Learning from the best practice that emerged during the industry’s response to the drought, the plan sets out steps to be taken to ensure the tourism trade is equipped with the tools they need to communicate on this topic (which ensures a single message is used by industry and stakeholders), frequently asked questions and answers, research/data and a portal where this information can all be housed and accesssed by the trade.

“The plan includes an ‘always on’ digital strategy and content plan that will ensure potential visitors are served the most relevant content when searching online for information regarding safety in the Western Cape,” Russel Brueton, Wesgro’s Chief Communications Officer told Tourism Update.