Safety in Cape Town remains a top priority, with the Mother City’s tourism sector being quick to reassure the international tourism industry following reports of an armed robbery involving a tour group in Khayelitsha last week.

On Friday, January 10, a group of 16 students – 11 of whom were international students – were robbed at gunpoint by five men in the township. The South African Police Service (Saps) were widely commended for their swift response after they arrested one suspect on Sunday and were questioning others. The suspect appeared in court on Tuesday and the case has been postponed for bail application on January 23.

Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Tourism, James Vos, told Tourism Update that he was pleased with the swift response, noting that destinations were also known for the way they responded to incidents.

Ensuring that those involved in the incident are properly supported is particularly important to Vos, who drove the initiative for Travel Wise ambassadors, increasing the comfort and safety of visitors to Cape Town.

According to Loyiso Mfuku, Director of Khayelitsha Travel and Tours, the Tourism Forum of Khayelitsha has partnered with the City of Cape Town to establish safer routes for tourists in the township.

The partners are also seeking to identify legal tour guides and well-established tourist attractions that are deemed safe for international tour groups, thus ensuring that the safety of tourists is always paramount.

Tours in Khayelitsha would continue, said PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism, Briony Brookes.

Tourism development in the township is a strong source of income and growth for the community. As such, city officials wanted to make it clear that there were repercussions for those who put the collective efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth at risk with their criminal behaviour, said Vos.

Meanwhile, Mfuku clarified that the group attacked was not an official tour group visiting one of the recognised tourist attractions, but rather a group of university students informally visiting a garden project at a local school with no registered tour guide present. Among the students were several foreign exchange students, reportedly from the United States. 

“This narrative is harming the industry,” said Mfuku regarding the robbery, “and it is impacting Khayelitsha tourism as a whole.”  He explained that Site C had always been a red-flag zone for tourism. “For somebody to go to the neighbourhood without consulting us means that they are obviously not aware that they might be putting visitors in danger.”