An organisation that represents businesses in the tourism sector fears that the crimes against foreign visitors in SA will dent efforts to create jobs and to boost the industry’s contribution to GDP.

Attacks on tourists at Cape Town’s popular Table Mountain National Park have left government and tourism authorities scrambling for solutions as fears grow that crime is worsening. The situation is hurting the tourism industry, one of the few sectors identified as having the potential to pull SA out of the economic malaise it is in.

SA has the largest travel and tourism sector in Africa, contributing about R426bn to the local economy in 2018, according to research by the World Travel and Tourism Council. The sector is responsible for 1.5-million jobs, or 9.2% of total employment in SA.

Streamlining tourist visas

President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously stated that radically overhauling the frustrating visa regulations and tackling crime will help grow SA’s tourism industry further. While the government has made some progress in streamlining tourist visa regimes, it appears it has few solutions to curb crime.  

There have been at least 14 separate attacks on Table Mountain in 2019. At the end of July, Ukranian tourist Ivan Ivanov was killed by three men at the popular East Fort above Chapman’s Peak.

In Johannesburg, tourists have often expressed concern that criminals are targeting them outside OR Tambo International Airport.

“These kinds of incidents put a dent on tourism and efforts to grow the sector,” said Tourism Business Council of SA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

“Anything that impacts on tourism negatively is a concern for us. Our job is to ensure there is a conducive environment for tourism. Even if it’s one [crime] incident, it’s one too many. We have raised this matter with the police and the minister of tourism. The good news is that there are measures being put in place to address crime,” said Tshivhengwa.

“However, we need to address the safety situation and send positive messages to the rest of the world to say what is happening here is isolated. Every day there are thousands of people arriving who go and tell a good story. There will be tangible results; we are working with [the] government to fix what needs to be fixed.  Safety of tourist needs to be prioritised.”

On Thursday, tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will launch a national tourism safety awareness campaign in Cape Town The campaign will focus on initiatives to improve visitor experience and increase tourism safety.