Communities called to “Rethink tourism” by prioritizing safety for province visitors.

Communities called to “Rethink tourism” by prioritizing safety for province visitors.

The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela has called on the industry and communities in Mpumalanga to “rethink tourism” by making the safety of tourism destinations a priority to enhance the sector’s economy in the country.

The Mpumalanga Province is recognised globally for its breath-taking natural attractions, and its wildlife experiences that draw international visitors to the Kruger National Park. Out of the 21 National Parks in the country, the Kruger National Park enjoys a large influx of visitors, thus contributing to South Africa’s competitiveness globally.

Incidents of crime have a negative impact on the growth of tourism as well as on provincial economies that have the potential to thrive through tourism.

Mahlalela on Friday gathered stakeholders and communities in Mbombela to discuss issues of tourism safety, appealing to delegates, as patriotic South Africans, to proactively participate in initiatives and efforts to curb incidences of crime hampering tourism growth in the province.

The Deputy Minister said that it was critical to ensure the integrity of South Africa as a safe destination by  growing the domestic tourism market and international arrivals, further adding that all would be possible if the scourge of high crimes targeted at tourist is dealt with by tourism stakeholders.

“It is imperative that we all proactively participate in the safety initiatives we are driving with the South Africa Police Services (SAPS), in partnership with tourism trade, to safeguard our communities, and assure visitors of safe attractions wherein they can create memorable experiences.”

“Crime poses a threat to sector growth and foreign direct investment, stifling the much-needed opportunities that could alleviate the poverty, inequality and unemployment in our communities.” said Deputy Minister Mahlalela.

Tourism has the potential to be a driver of economic recovery in the Province, and according to the Provincial MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Vusi Mkhatshwa, efforts in marketing the Province should yield a narrative that Mpumalanga is ready to welcome visitors to have a once in a lifetime experience.

“This unwarranted behaviour sends a wrong message to visitors and would-be visitors, that tourists are not welcomed in our Province. Common sense assumes that anyone who is not well received, will think twice before going back to the place where they felt unwelcomed. And that is why we will continue to work relentlessly, with our law enforcement agencies, to protect our tourist routes across the Province”, said Mkhatshwa.

The stakeholder event in the Mpumalanga Province was the third instalment of engagements the Department is hosting to share its Tourism Safety Strategy. The Tourism Safety Strategy that is centred on three pillars that includes proactive measures to ensure that tourists are safe; responsive measures that ensure quick and effective turnaround time in attending to tourists in distress; and an aftercare programme that provides care and comfort to a tourist in distress after an incident.

Partnership with the private sector through the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has played an integral part in addressing safety issues at tourism attractions across the country. TBCSA CEO Tshifiwa Tshivhengwa believes protecting the sector will go a long way in creating opportunities that will help South Africa attain its growth target of 21 million international tourist arrivals by 2030.

“As TBCSA, we represent the interests of the private sector in the tourism space. Tourism is important to the economy, and safeguarding it will secure jobs in both the public and the private sector. We remain committed to finding workable and sustainable solutions to safety issues. This will allow tourism to grow and create multiple opportunities,” said Tshivhengwa.

Since the development of the Safety Strategy, the Department has initiated multiple interventions to support the sector with regards to safety at tourism attractions. The Tourism Monitors programmes has been implemented nationally, with youth assisting SAPS to monitor and report incidents of crime. They have also been instrumental in providing aftercare to tourist who have been victims of crime.