More than any other economic activity, the success or failure of a tourism destination depends on being able to provide a safe and secure environment for visitors. During the 2019 SoNA, the President stated: “…enhanced destination marketing and measures to strengthen tourism safety, will create the conditions for the growth we envisage, and the jobs and opportunities that will follow.”
The attack and murder of Ukrainian hiker Ivan Ivanov made international news, begging the question of just how safe tourists are when they visit Cape Town. Ivanov was murdered barely 10 metres from the parking lot of the popular Chapman’s Peak trail. Although the Mother City has been earmarked as an international must-visit city, an accolade owing to its beautiful beaches and the famous Table Mountain, the recent spike in murders and other crimes seems to be scaring foreign visitors away.
Speaking to EWN, tour guide Ida Torres previously said a number of her customers from foreign countries recently cancelled their trips after hearing about attacks on tourists in Cape Town. Surprisingly, the number of attacks that have been recorded since January 2019 is 14, a far cry from the 42 attacks recorded within the same period in 2018.
“I must be very honest, we’ve lost a lot of tourists because of the crime,” she said.
According to the Department of Tourism, tourism safety has been consistently identified across a number of studies, media and crime reports as a challenge which threatens tourism growth and therefore, foreign direct investment, visitor spending and employment.
“International tourism trends indicate that personal safety and security issues are of high importance in potential tourist’s choice of a destination. Incidents of crime directed at tourists and tourism products create a negative perception and reputation about our country and destination and in turn, impact on both the visitor experience and visitor numbers,” said the department. “A memorable visitor experience for both domestic and international tourists through cleanliness, safety and security, access to information, as well as provision of quality services and authentic experience.”
The department added that there is work underway to ensure that primary concerns are addressed, and these include safety and security.
“Together with the security agencies, community policing forum and initiatives we have set high on our agenda, the need to collaborate and jointly undertake initiatives to identify, address and mitigate risks, challenges and threats impacting on tourist safety as well as businesses in the tourism industry which includes (1) Identification and analysis of key Tourism hotspots (2) Establishment of a database of crime against tourists (3) Enhancement of tourism built and environment through crime prevention initiatives (4) Ensure the joint implementation of an optimised policing and security strategy in the tourism environment,” it said. “The safety of tourists and residents is one of the challenges facing destinations frequented by visitors in South Africa. Acts of criminality against tourists have become a source of great concern and have a negative impact on the country’s tourism potential, and affect the visitor experience.”
The department will instate the following steps to ensure tourist safety:
– The gathering of comprehensive statistics and research that result in reliable information and data suitable for risk assessment by decision-makers and policy-makers.
– The training and education of travel employees and private and public sector service personnel in their role as guardians responsible for protecting the basic right of safe travel by all citizens of the world.
– The development of private sector/public sector partnerships in the facilitation of safety-conscious travel and in ensuring the growth of the national economy.
– The implementation of programmes of emergency services for travellers and tourists in need in order to assist them and, in the event of crime, to permit the successful prosecution of offenders at the least possible burden to the victims.
– The allocation of adequate resources to the courts, the police and public and private security forces for the protection and general well-being of travellers and tourists.
“This process – in response to the concern that has been raised by those who want to visit our country that they would like the issue of safety to be given attention – is already at an advanced stage. We encourage tourists and local travelers to maintain awareness of their surroundings at all times,” it said. “We are confident that through endeavors by numerous partners, including community safety initiatives, we are working around the clock to initiate counter measures in the immediate term, as we consolidate our Tourism Safety Strategy.”