Tour operators are not the only ones affected by the excessive delays in obtaining operator licences from the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR), qualified tour guides are losing their jobs as operators face closure and are forced to retrench their staff.
The delays reportedly began when a new regulation kicked in about two years ago, requiring all operators to apply in Pretoria and not via their provincial offices as they had been doing previously.
Sorita Musgrave, a qualified tour guide operating in the Western and Eastern Cape is one of those ‘casualties’ of the NPTR crisis, having been retrenched in July after the company she worked for failed to obtain their licences for all their vehicles.
“I worked for a smaller firm that mostly dealt with young volunteers coming to South Africa during their gap year. We offered these volunteers several options and we used to outsource all the tours but there was a gap to bring the tours in-house,” she said, highlighting that the company then bought two vehicles and applied for the Tour Operator (TO) licences in July 2017.
“We received a licence for the smaller vehicle but are still waiting for a Tour Operator licence for the larger vehicle,” said Musgrave, highlighting that although the vehicle is not in use, the monthly instalment and insurance still had to be paid.
“And every time we asked how far we were in the process, they requested documents that we had sent previously: a roadworthy certificate, service plan, service records (although it was not being used) and a tax clearance certificate,” she explained.
Musgrave is now working as a freelance guide in a weak economy and, by her own admission, is struggling month to month. She is studying to get her qualification for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng but that is not a quick solution.
“I have even joined forces with other freelance guides who can’t get full-time employment but it’s not been an easy road to travel.”
Tourism bodies, such as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association have flagged the delays as “a crisis” that is severely hampering the much-needed growth of the tourism industry in South Africa.
Independent tourism and hospitality adviser, Gillian Saunders, pointed to statistics from the Public-Private Growth Initiative and TBCSA that, given the right enabling environment to grow tourism, a total of 1.7 million new direct jobs could be created – 132% growth – as well as 3.5 million jobs in total throughout the economy – also 132% growth in the labour force dependent on tourism.
Tourism Update has undertaken to share the human side of this crisis by encouraging operators and guides to share how NPTR delays have affected them personally.