Tourism bodies are not resting on their laurels amid “widespread and pervasive” negative reporting on crime and other negative issues facing South Africa, but instead are tackling this head-on, with Satsa having recently rolled out an extensive crisis communications and reputation management strategy.

“Crime affects South Africa’s citizens on a very deep level and unfortunately foreign tourists are inevitably caught up in it. It needs to be addressed, and the industry as a whole is lobbying hard to ensure the safety of its tourists. But a lot of damage is being done through the dissemination of false and alarmist information and this has to be effectively addressed,” said Natalia Rosa, Director of Big Ambitions, who handles the PR and communications for Satsa.

There has been a huge gap in information and Satsa has developed this crisis communications strategy to fill that gap, as well as help its members and industry fill that gap,” she pointed out, highlighting to Tourism Update that they had essentially set up a “war room” to implement the crisis communications strategy Satsa had created.

“It is critical that we deal with the negative perceptions about South Africa in a co-ordinated single-channelled manner,” added Satsa CEO, David Frost, who described negative reporting as the biggest single threat to tourism to date.

He said part of this strategy was to hold weekly webinars, which will be hosted by Rosa –  the first one held today  (Wednesday) – to guide Satsa members on how to  manage their communications and queries from overseas operators around the crime, drought and other concerns as part of the larger crisis communications strategy and protocol Satsa has established.

Some of the other actions include setting up monitoring platforms to catch all negative/positive mentions about South Africa and address them. These include Facebook Groups and forums where potential tourists are and could ask questions about South Africa.

“We are also reaching out to industry stakeholders whose websites have a high page ranking to host content that will help us change the narrative, as theirs is more likely to rank faster than the brand-new website we are building,” added Rosa.

CEO of the Tourism Business Council (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, agreed that the “ripple effect” of one disgruntled social media poster was far-reaching and “extremely dangerous to the ‘Destination South Africa’ brand.”

“We have been actively engaging with the national and regional police commissioners and we have their commitment to effectively address crime and we are engaging the tourism industry to work together and speak with one collective voice to reassure their clients that their safety concerns are being addressed.

“It’s high time we close that collaboration gap and address issues together,” he added.

NOTE: The Minister of Tourism, Nkhensani Kubayi-Ngubane, is set to hold a press conference tomorrow (Thursday) addressing the spates of attacks against tourists and revealing her plan to mitigate this.