To ensure tourism safety remains high on the agenda, tourism stakeholders in Mpumalanga have introduced a victim support programme as part of the Joint Provincial Tourism Safety Forum that was established by Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, in December.

The forum is jointly driven by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) Mpumalanga.

Kruger Lowveld Tourism (KLT) – a division of KLCBT – largely drove the initiative to provide victim support to tourists in distress.

Spokesperson of Kruger Lowveld Tourism, Tom Vorster, explained to Tourism Update that it was a common feeling among   tourism industry stakeholders that local tourism organisations in the region were best suited to provide victim support.

“KLCBT victim support co-ordinators work closely with the specially appointed Tourism Safety Manager, Lindiwe Mthombeni, and keep her informed of any incidents reported to us,” said Vorster. “Likewise, she advises us of any incidents from our region reported directly to her by the SAPS and generally we will activate the nearest support volunteer to assist the victims.”

Informative posters were provided at provincial police stations outlining the respective protocols to follow should a tourist report a crime. This information includes details of who to call for victim assistance as well as reporting procedures.

As part of this programme victims are assisted with communicating with their relatives back home, as well as replacing clothing, toiletries and chronic medication, amongst others.

Earlier this year, the programme took an estimated 30 victim support volunteers. They were provided with a comprehensive file of contact details of fellow volunteers, police officials in every town, emergency services, trauma councillors and translators.

“Volunteers offer their time and travel freely while KLT and MTPA cover necessary costs. The victim support programme works closely with the officers of the tourism safety task team under the command of Brigadier Prince Ngobeni,” said Vorster. “I understand that the task team is funded out the R40 million (€2.5 million) tourism safety budget announced by the Minister of Tourism late last year.”

Other safety and security measures have been put in place, such as CCTV cameras in strategic points in areas like Hazyview as well as increased patrols of police and private security companies.