TOURISM authorities have moved swiftly to mitigate fall-out from an armed robbery at Cape Town’s iconic Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel earlier this week. A gang of 15 gunmen made off with jewellery and cash after holding up staff and guests in a late night heist at the five-star landmark.
“The incident is isolated, rare, and does not in any way represent the experiences that tourists have in South Africa,” said Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. “Thousands of tourists visit South Africa every day and they go home with wonderful experiences and memories,” he said.
The tourism industry has united in strongly condemning the attack, reiterating it was of serious concern to all involved in the industry, which attracted 1,7m visitors in 2018 and supported nearly 300 000 jobs in the Western Cape.
Tim Harris, CEO of the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency Wesgro, called for quick arrests and reassured visitors the matter was receiving “the highest priority”. He said a provincial safety response team had been activated, who, together with Cape Town Tourism’s Band-Aid project, were providing assistance and support to tourists in distress. “We will continue to work with our stakeholders in government and the industry to ensure that Cape Town and the Western Cape remains an attractive destination to visit,” he said.
Cape Town Tourism CEO, Enver Duminy, confirmed all stakeholders were actively seeking long-term solutions to keep both residents and tourists safe. “Cape Town Tourism has implemented a raft of support initiatives to assist visitors affected by safety or security incidents. These include our Travel Wise Ambassador Programme, ongoing safety awareness communication, industry safety programmes and immediate support via our unique Band-Aid initiative. We will continue to offer support to and engage with those affected by this incident for as long as help is needed."
Hospitality association Fedhasa Cape said it was “deeply concerned” by the incident and its possible ripple effect on the industry. Chairperson, Jeff Rosenberg, said Fedhasa had offered its support to the hotel. “The industry, along with the Western Cape government, Wesgro and the City of Cape Town, have been engaged in ongoing efforts to address crime impacting the tourism industry and have committed to working together to ensure ongoing security within the industry,” he said.
A London-based spokesperson for the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel confirmed that staff and four guests affected by the robbery were safe and that the hotel remained open as usual. “The safety and security of our guests and staff is our utmost priority and we have robust security arrangements in place across our global portfolio, which we regularly review. We are supporting the police with their investigation.” The spokesperson declined to confirm if security measures were being beefed up.
Meanwhile, Satsa (Southern Africa Tourism Services Association) confirmed it was adding its voice to a coordinated campaign by the TBCSA to address negative reports about South Africa in the international media. SATSA CEO, David Frost, said the campaign would be launched soon. It would include crisis communication and reputation management across multiple platforms, including media and social media, and would coordinate the responses of stakeholders within the private sector through their representative associations, government stakeholders, key media and influencers. “There are clear and present threats to the industry both external, such as the growing flight shaming movement, as well as ongoing issues around crime and civil unrest inside South Africa. It is critical that we deal with the negative perceptions about South Africa in a coordinated single-channeled manner, providing proactive communications and employing a ‘one-voice’ approach,” he said.