The SA government’s Tourism Safety plan – launched ahead of the festive season in December last year – has made some progress, according to the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela.

Speaking exclusively to Tourism Update, Mahlalela said he had been part of the Tourism Safety Task Team in Mpumalanga and – as a result of the additional safety measures – there had been no incidents reported against tourists in the province.

“This is significant as Mpumalanga was identified as one of the hotspots for crime against tourists last year.”

Mahlalela also said that certain syndicates – using distinctive modus operandi – had been identified and the Tourism Safety Task Team had made strides in cracking down on these criminal groups.

Some of the actions taken by some syndicates included hijacking tourist vehicles, obtaining tourists’ bank cards and using the cash speed points the criminals carry with them to transfer large amounts of cash to a specific bank account.

“We also suspect the syndicates are receiving inside information from car tracking companies or car hire companies as they know exactly where the GPS dead zones are and tend to strike there,” said Mahlalela.

Late last year, Minister of Tourism, Mmamaloka Kubayi-Ngubane, made a direct link between the drop in international tourists to South Africa and the high-profile incidents of crimes against tourists.

Subsequently, an amount of R40 million (€2.4m) has been set aside from TOMSA levy collections for the implementation of South Africa’s new “workable” Tourism Safety Plan that was jointly launched by the Minister of Tourism, Mmamaloka Kubayi-Ngubane, and Police Minister, Bheki Cele, in December last year.

Kubayi-Ngubane announced that a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Tourism to collaborate toward the common goal of addressing crime and ensuring tourism safety.

She highlighted that the safety strategy had been developed in close consultation with tourism stakeholders, including airlines, the rail sector and accommodation establishments as well as the SAPS and the Minister of Police.

“Accordingly, our Tourism Safety Plan includes proactive preventative measures, responsive measures that will ensure a quick operational response in the event of an incident and, most importantly, an aftercare programme that focuses on victim support,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.