By early next month, the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, expects to hold a media briefing to announce “solid plans” on how to address tourism safety and security ahead of the festive season.

Speaking to Tourism Update exclusively last week, the Minister revealed that the issue of safety and security was a major obstacle toward government achieving its goal of growing an industry that President Cyril Ramaphosa has identified as the number-two priority sector in the country.

“We have seen growth in the tourism sector over the years and we have one of the most beautiful and diverse tourism offerings in the world; that is undeniable. But have we reached our full potential as a gross domestic product industry contributor and a job creator? No,” she said, highlighting that the current challenges needed to be addressed for the full value of tourism to be unlocked.

Kubayi-Ngubane said she’d met with tourism stakeholder organisations such as South African Tourism and Tourism Marketing South Africa last week to discuss the challenges around safety and security and find holistic solutions.

“We have already identified some of the crime hotspots – including the R40 highway in Mpumalanga – and we are working with the tourism sector and the law enforcement agencies, including the South African Police Services to ensure additional safety measures at these spots during the festive season,” she said.

The Minister appealed to all tourism stakeholders to have input into the safety and security strategy. “We also need the operators to help us implement it. It could not be done in silos, but rather collectively, if the strategy was to be effective, emphasised Kubayi-Ngubane.

In a recent interview with TU, Managing Director of Walthers Destination Business Solutions Africa, Daryl Keywood, agreed that the industry had a huge mountain to climb if it was to achieve South African Tourism’s growth target for 2030.

He reiterated the Minister’s statement that tourism had a pivotal role to play in growing the economy as it required comparatively little physical investment when compared with more capital-intensive industries.

“An investment in improved tourism security is relatively small in comparison to the benefits that would be realised. We really cannot afford ignore the importance of addressing this important issue,” said Keywood.