Following a robust discussion with government and private-sector industry role players in Johannesburg this morning (Monday, May 29) – including the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), FEDHASA, BARSA, SATOVITO, and SATSA – the Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, has announced that the Department of Tourism, provincial departments, tourism associations, and the private stakeholders have agreed to address Tourism Safety issues in partnership with one another.
Addressing the media this afternoon, following the discussions, the Minister said: “We discussed the risks related to tourism and the strategies and actions that need to be implemented to improve tourism safety as agreed in the 2018 Tourism Safety Strategy. This strategy has, however, not been properly implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But I am determined that together with our partners, we now need to address tourist safety with clear actions and timelines.
“The road ahead is simple: we must act now. I am clear that the mandate of SAPS is to ensure the safety of all South Africans, including our visitors, but we can do more as partners within our ambit. I share the concerns and need for urgency with the private sector. So this is my plea – let us work together to grow tourism and ensure the safety of both local and international tourists.”
Tourism recognised for ‘immense potential’
De Lille pointed out that safety was one of the major issues affecting the tourism sector. “Tourism is not only an economic activity but an essential vehicle promoting mutual understanding between a tourist and host community. Tourism is recognised for its immense potential and its significant contribution to the economy. An enhanced visitor experience considers the enhancement of local destination sites through cleanliness, safety and security, access to information, as well as provision of quality services and an authentic experience.”
According to De Lille, crime is a matter that affects tourism in many parts of the world and she said this had been echoed by several tourism ministers she had engaged with from all over the world in recent weeks.
“South Africa is no different and, across the world, countries are grappling with these issues with instability and wars in some countries. In my engagements with the private sector, we agreed that we need to confront safety and security issues head-on and implement actions to arrest the problem. We can only do so by working together.”
She highlighted that the National Tourism Safety Forum, established in 2018, and its objectives, needed to be implemented now and provided detailed feedback – as discussed with industry today – in how it would be implemented (these plans will be shared by Tourism Update during the course of the week).
‘Agreed plan to be implemented in the next 90 days’
CEO of Cullinan Holdings and TBCSA Safety Committee Chair, Michael Tollman, said: “We intend to complete today’s conference with an agreed plan, which will be implemented within the next 90 days.”
Tollman said the plan would not only reduce risks to tourism safety and security, but would also ensure that many more tourists returned home from their visit to South Africa with a positive view to share with their friends and family, and on social media.
“In this way, and with support from the Department of Tourism, SA Tourism, and the private sector, we will have opportunities that we currently do not have in our toolbox to sell South Africa better and to improve and change perceptions of South Africa regarding tourism safety and security.”
Tollman noted that the stakeholders expected perceptions to stay the same over time, but were confident that if they could agree to the plan and measures being proposed today and if they could successfully implement them in the next three months, perceptions would change over time.
“And we will see great confidence and comfort for our tourists to travel in South Africa and to visit South Africa,” he said, noting that the TBCSA would work hand-in-hand with the Department of Tourism in bringing resources together for this initiative.
De Lille concluded: “Safety is a key concern for all of us, and we need to confront these problems. I made it clear to the Forum that I am looking for collaboration and ideas. More importantly, we need practical solutions. It’s the ‘HOW’ that is important for me. We need to, collectively, partner up to bolster tourism, with the common goal of giving visitors the best possible experience in this beautiful country of ours.”