The Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has written to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, requesting an amnesty period for tour operators who are facing a massive backlog in obtaining tour operating licences from the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR).

“Addressing this backlog is high on government’s priority list and I am engaging closely with Minister Mbalula on this,” she told Tourism Update on the side lines of Meetings Africa 2020, highlighting that she’d sent the letter about two weeks ago.

“We have also since allowed some operators to apply on a provincial level again but this hasn’t been the ideal fix as some operators offer tours across multiple provinces,” she said.

This statement from the Minister comes on the heels of tourism industry association SATSA having written to her late last year highlighting the need for an amnesty period of a year for those waiting for their applications to be processed to continue their business and use the vehicles that are currently just standing idle all over the country.

“This amnesty period will be well regulated and may only apply to those who already have operator’s licences for previous vehicles,” she said.

This echoed SATSA COO, Hannelie du Toit’s earlier remarks to Tourism Update in which she highlighted that those with proof of their application should be granted the amnesty and any new applications (should be smaller numbers) will be processed through the NPTR or with provincial regulators like the Cross Border Road Transport Agency or the Western Cape.

SATSA further recommended that public- and private-sector task teams be put together during this amnesty period. “The private sector knows what’s going on on the ground and can provide that insight to government,” said Du Toit.

She added that ex-Transport MEC for Gauteng Province, Ishmail Vadi, would be ideal as he had implemented a similar amnesty for Gauteng when the province changed from operating permits to operating licences.

Managing Director of Wow Tours and Travel, Rushdi Harper, told Tourism Update that following retrenchment he had qualified as a tour guide in 2006 and decided to launch his own company.

“I purchased a vehicle from the few retrenchment funds I had received and I was fortunate to obtain work from a few hotels.”

He has since grown his offering, which focuses on authentic local tours for mainly the US market. Harper’s company is in another growth phase where it is hosting large international conference groups each year – growing from 750 people in 2016 to 2 000 people in April 2020.

“Should I not get my operating licence for the additional vehicles I need to expand my business, I will not be able to grow,” he said.