It may be time for South Africa’s tourist industry to engage with government on the establishment of a dedicated tourist police service. This is according to TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela, who says the association and various roleplayers called for a tourist police service a number of years ago, but plans to address the suggestion again with the new Minister of Tourism and request that she takes it forward with the Minister of Police and the National Cabinet.

The TBCSA, through the Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) also plans to launch an app to enhance tour operators and tourists’ access to assistance in the case of incidents. Ramawela says the Tourist Safety App is in its final testing phase, and that once it is up and running, it will link to a call centre.

But she stresses that it is not the responsibility of the TSI to provide support for tourists in cases where they are affected by crime while travelling in the country. “The TSI doesn’t have the facility and resources to deliver such a service,” she says.

Instead, Ramawela says the primary role of the TSI is to help affected businesses and tourists to access and connect with relevant sources of assistance, such as emergency support, law enforcement agencies, liaison with embassies and other relevant organisations.

The TBCSA says it can’t tell for sure if crime against tourists has increased in SA. “We recently met with various stakeholders, including the South African Police Services (SAPS), Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) and the National Department of Tourism on the matter, with various perspectives brought into the debate,” says Ramawela.

“From what we could gather, this seems to be more of a perception than a reality.” She adds, though, that the resurgence of follow-home robberies from OR Tambo International Airport is definitely playing a role in increased awareness around crime impacting tourists.

Finally, Ramawela encouraged the trade to report tourist safety and security-related incidents to the SAPS and the TSI incident web portal: “It is critical for incidents of this nature to be reported to the SAPS for investigation purposes and to ultimately secure a conviction where possible. It is also important to report these incidents on the TSI incident web portal from the point of keeping track and to facilitate our ongoing engagement with the police. Where there are tourist safety and security threats, we distribute alerts to our members and also issue relevant communication on an ongoing basis.”