Tourist Safety interventions; Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, with Minister

NCOP Trade & Industry, Economic Development, Small Business, Tourism, Employment & Labour

11 October 2022
Chairperson: Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the National Department of Tourism presented their plans and what they have done thus far on the recovery of the tourism sector, as well as their plan for the safety of tourists visiting South Africa.

Committee members asked about the safety of tourists especially in high crime areas such as the Numbi Gate and Limpopo, the feasibility of the DoT achieving its set goals by 2024, the lack of local airlines for tourism, Durban's polluted beaches; promoting SADC as a whole tourist package, care given to tourists who were victims of crime and the Minister's role, the continuity of security measures planned for the festive season, the Tourism Equity Fund suspension, and the reporting challenges by provinces on the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan. There were also suggestions by Members to improve safety and sector recovery.

Meeting report

Minister of Tourism opening remarks
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu stated that Brand SA and South African Tourism (SAT) now has a combined interim board that is in the process of merging the two entities with the goal of marketing SA for tourist visits and investments. The Portfolio Committee had received communication on the SAT merger with Brand SA from former Minister Kubayi at its 5 May 2021 meeting on the SAT 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan. The Cabinet decision had been taken to repurpose state-owned entities to save government money and it advised the former Minister to extend the current SAT board term for a year.

Minister Sisulu stated that the merger of the two entities had not been achieved by the end of that one-year extension. Thus an interim board had been appointed to oversee the two branches and ensure that the goal of combining the two branches is achieved. The Minister affirmed that this effort had been endorsed by GCIS, the Minister in Presidency and herself. The Minister ended this point by stating that she suspects the merger of these two entities has been drawn out because “when people are comfortable, they don’t want to resettle themselves” – and suggested that pressure from the Committee would possibly motivate these parties to fast track the process.

The Minister shared some DoT successes – one being that they had a successful expo in Dubai where they recorded some of the proceedings to prove their great engagement with communities and the marketing of SA as a place for tourists to visit.

On the safety of tourists, the Minister assured the Committee that DoT has a good working relationship with the South African Police Service (SAPS) who were able to make three arrests for the murder of the German tourist in early October. Although the suspects turned out to be innocent, identification of the correct perpetrators was provided to SAPS and they are on a mission to find them. It was unfortunate that the news reached Germany before the wife of the victim could tell her children who found out from the media. The German ambassador expressed that he was impressed with the care that the SA team was taking in handling the case. When we do have an unfortunate incident happening, it is important that all government stands up to assist. It is a grim reminder about the importance of the safety of our tourists who we invite to visit South Africa.

Tourism Safety Action Plan
Ms Petra van Niekerk, DoT Parliamentary Liaison Officer, noted that the Director-General would be joining the meeting as soon as the Portfolio Committee meeting had ended.

Ms Lizzy Matopa Acting DDG: Tourism Sector Support Services said that the 2018 ‘National Tourism Safety Strategy’ fosters public private sector partnership in addressing tourism safety in a more coordinated manner. This strategy is grounded on three key pillars: proactive measures (putting in place measures to ensure that tourists are safe before they embark on a trip); responsive measures (mechanisms that ensure quick and effective turnaround time to attend to tourist in distress); and aftercare programmes (provide care and comfort to a tourist in distress immediately after an incident and beyond). The goals of this strategy are to:
- Set out roles and responsibilities of each sphere of government and relevant stakeholders on coordination of tourism safety programmes and ensure mutual support between all stakeholders.
- Identify effective joint preventative approaches aimed at reducing opportunities for crime.
- Establishment of tourism victim support and after care programmes.
- Facilitate integrated implementation and support of safety programme.

The Tourism Safety Plan is drawn from Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tourist Safety that DoT and SAPS signed in December 2019. The plan included strategy projects that might be handled bilaterally with SAPS and to ensure that One Safety Plan is used, hence preventing duplication. It aims to raise awareness at designated tourist destination locations; provide tourism monitors with safety training so they can perform their jobs safely and encourage the coordinated implementation and support of safety programmes.

The presentation spoke to the following topics (see document):
- Case Management System - The SAPS Crime Administration System (CAS) will allow the capturing the profile of tourists when registering a case. This is expected to be launched before the end of 2022/23.
- Fast tracking of cases involving international tourists (NPA)
- Establishment of Provincial Tourism Safety Forums
- Management of the Tourism Monitors Programme
- Tourism Safety Awareness Programmes
- Festive season safety awareness plans

Ms H Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) asked for information on the aftercare programme. Her questions were around how assistance was given to tourists who had been attacked. Were there special facilities for tourists to get help as SAPS is not the most reliable source for service? Secondly, who the alternative individual for deployment would be to assist both local and foreign tourists who had been attacked in instances where the Minister is not available.

Ms Boshoff asked how inquired how the tourism monitors would be capacitated and made more visible on the safety side of things in high crime areas such as Numbi Gate as the SAPS nearby is understaffed and has only one police car – thus leaving locals and tourists to their own devices. She questioned the Minister's point that there had been no cancellations of trips made by foreigners to SA even after the unfortunate violent death of the German tourist. Considering that tourists plan their trips in advance, where did the Minister get her information that this incident will not have an impact on foreigners cancelling their trips to SA?

Ms Boshoff made recommendations: 1. She suggested that tourists to be provided with a brochure with information on who they can contact in each province should they find themselves in an unsafe environment. 2. The planned increase of security at airports during the festive season should be an ongoing project. 3. DoT meet the efforts of private establishments in the Numbi Gate - Kruger National Park area who have set up their own security measures and spent up to R2.8 million on street cameras and monitors, by perhaps removing speed humps as this area is home to high volumes of crime. 4. Share the awareness programme DoT is working on with the German ambassador with local travel agencies.

Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) raised the need to look at the different tourist markets and how they are approached to ensure their needs are met. He recalled his trip Saudi Arabia and stated that when SA Tourism made its presentation, it spoke about wine and song. This does not speak to the Saudi market as alcohol and song is not a point of interest for them. Luckily, in the presentation the Free State spoke about family values – which appealed to the Saudi market. He referenced the V&A Waterfront which is attractive to the the Saudi market. Thus, it is of pivotal importance to assess different markets and what would appeal to them – especially tourists from “wealthy” countries which is who the DoT should be looking to attract to boost SA’s economy.

Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) noted the importance of emphasizing the unfortunate incident of the German tourist as an isolated event that is not representative of the tourism sector or of the safety of tourists in South Africa. One should rather speak about SA having the necessary security measures to protect tourists.

He stressed that engagement between the tourism sector and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) which is an entity of the Department of Transport is important to identify timelines / resistance / challenges that need intervention by the Select Committee.

Mr Mmoiemang suggested that the Minister of Police, together with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Minister for Justice, consider the way criminal cases were treated during the World Cup to ensure that cases involving the safety of tourists are fast-tracked. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development should also be bought on board.

Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) asked if Limpopo which is a province with a very high tourism crime rate, was going to be included in DoT’s efforts for increasing the safety of tourists as Limpopo was not included in the presentation. She also asked if counselling was provided to tourists who were attacked before they go home

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) echoed the point about the high crime rate at Numbi Gate. The online reviews of Numbi Gate were terrible which has a negative impact on tourists wanting to visit the area. He suggested that DoT should close the Numbi Gate entrance to the Kruger National Park as the area was so bad that the South African National Parks (SANParks) was advising everyone not use that entrance at least until the roads and safety of that area are fixed.

Mr Brauteseth pleaded with DoT to put pressure on eThekwini municipality about the sewerage leaks at Durban harbour as the leaks into the ocean are still resulting in the closure of beaches. Considering the fast-approaching festive season, the closure of beaches during this time would result in mass job losses.

The Chairperson noted that the last question belongs to the next section on the recovery of tourism. On the cancellation of trips to SA by foreigners, he asked if there have been any from Germany and other countries.

Department response
Ms Nomasonto Ndlovu, SA Tourism COO, replied to the market related questions as follows:
- Markets and their differing needs to determine the DoT approach are founded on insights and analytics provided by research.
- DoT has 24 markets they are currently focusing their efforts on.
- Saudi Arabia is given focus as it is currently under DoT’s watch list. However, they are not a priority right now as they are not a core market.
- It is too early to confirm or report on any real cancellations as of now. However they will continue to monitor the statistics and maintain contact with their partners in Germany for insights as it still remains one of SA’s key markets.

Ms Ndlovu shared that Eurowings, a Lufthansa subsidiary airline, will be launching flights from Germany directly to Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga in November 2022.  

Ms Lizzy Matopa, Acting DDG: Tourism Sector Support, replied that an aftercare programme does not entail physical facilities for tourists who have been attacked. Rather, the programme seeks to connect such tourists to existing institutions for assistance. For example, if tourists lose their documents, they will be helped with the documentation process at Home Affairs to be fast tracked. Also small things like offering support to tourists if they are in hospital and do not have family or friends in the country. In addition, the programme assisted in sourcing a psychologist for the wife of the German tourist who was brutally killed near the Kruger National Park.

On the deployment of an alternative to the Minister, this was not a usual action. It just happened that the Minister was available at the time of the incident with the German tourist. Similarly, with the bus attack that occurred in Fourways in Johannesburg in 2017, former Minister Xasa went to offer comfort to the victims because the minister was available. This is also done with domestic tourists when big cases arise; however it is less likely because locals already know where to seek assistance and have family within reach.

For visibility in high crime areas, information from SAPS has been sent to the provinces to guide them on how to request a call-up for police reservists with a focus on areas with high levels of tourists and crime attacks, especially for the coming festive season.

DoT is already working with the private sector as the National Safety Forum and Strategy is the result of discussions held with private sector organisations, SAPS, Business Against Crime and Banking Association South Africa. Other requests from private organisations will be considered internally to see how they can work with SAPS.

On tourism monitors being capacitated, DoT will investigate improving engagement with SAPS as they already have a programme focused on training young people on safety and security. They saw the need for this as providing people will protective instruments such as pepper spray does not help if the people do not know how to use these – which is what the SAPS programme is fixing.

It would be most beneficial to have safety measures at airports ongoing beyond festive season; however due to budget constraints, DoT's focus right now is on the festive season with guaranteed high levels of travel during this time. However, should the budget allow for an extension of these measures, then it can be negotiated.

The reason there is no individual engagement with travel agencies is because they are present as a forum under the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA).

On the fast-tracking of cases, lessons will be taken from the management of cases during the 2010 World Cup by engaging with the Department of Justice and the NPA.

Although Limpopo was not included in the presentation and there are currently no monitors in the province yet, there are safety forums DoT is engaged with in Limpopo. The Department will also be doing awareness sessions.

Minister Sisulu made the following remarks to the points raised:
- Suggestion to close the Numbi Gate: This is noted because the issues contributing to the instability around the Numbi Gate is around land claims. Without that issue being solved first, having the gate open is a security risk. However, the suggestion to remove speed humps close to the Numbi Gate might not be a great idea as there is a school nearby so the speed humps are there as a safety measure for students.
- Reoccurrence of German tourist incident: This occurrence was not a true reflection of SA and she hopes it does not occur again.
- Deployment of Minister: She was not deployed but rather went to offer comfort to the victims of her own accord because she had the time and especially because the news had already travelled to German newspapers which is how the family and children of the deceased unfortunately found out. Her efforts were praised by the German ambassador who stated that he had never worked with such a caring group of people as the SA representatives.
- Suggestions of making resources (phone numbers and services) for tourists to use for assistance; to focus on the Middle East as a market and to list Limpopo as unsafe are noted.

Tourism Sector Recovery Plan (TSRP)
DoT Director General, Mr Victor Tharage, provided an update on the TSRP implementation and specifically highlighted information on arrivals, aviation, accommodation, food and beverages.

Implementation commenced in 2021/22 and will continue until 2023/24. Progress reporting is the responsibility of all relevant partners and is coordinated by DoT. Initiatives are included in the Annual Performance Plans of the Department and SAT. Stakeholders such as other national departments, the provinces and private sector are requested to indicate initiatives implemented to support implementation of the Plan. Quarterly reporting is provided through the development of TSRP implementation and monitoring reports that provide an overview of milestones achieved.

There has been substantial progress in implementation of TSRP initiatives especially for DoT and SAT tasks. Overall, of the more than 40 tasks, only one has been fully achieved: norms and standards gazetted and published. Three initiatives – launch the SMME support hub, Tourism Equity Fund roll out efficient licensing of tour operators through system and process improvements – were not implemented. In respect of the others, significant progress has been made.

Reporting by other stakeholders including provinces which has not been consistent and private sector is necessary to ensure a comprehensive picture of achievements in the implementation of the TSRP. It is envisaged that TSRP priorities will be fully achieved by the end of the TSRP timeframe of 2021/22 to 2023/24 (see document).

Ms Boshoff requested information on the specific provinces where the 10 projects in distress were, as well as the type of industry and support given. She requested a report on how domestic flights and tourism have been impacted by the distress of these ten tourism projects.

Although fuel shortages do not fall under the scope of Tourism, she inquired about the impact the lack of jet fuel at Cape Town International Airport had on tourism. She asked DoT to provide a statistic on the percentage of medical tourists that visit SA.

Mr Mmoiemang asked for comfort on DoT’s goals of completing their Sixth Term priorities by 2024, considering that the TSRP reflected only one competed task so far out of the more than 40.

Mr Mmoiemang said [2:41:40 inaudible] but lack of reporting by other stakeholders brings a disadvantage. More emphasis on reporting must be brought to the attention of the MECs in the MINMEC forum. It is important because it will give clarity on the contribution each province is making to ensure the programme succeeds given the interface between DoT and provinces. This will also give a sense if all other spheres are contributing to ensuring sustainable tourism and sector turnaround.

Mr Mmoiemang asked if DoT had other sources of funding directed towards sustainable tourism as well as cultural tourism.

Mr Dangor asked about the collective marketing of SADC as a tourist destination as opposed to just SA.

The Chairperson asked about the projects in distress. He wanted more information on the extent of the suspension of the Tourism Equity Fund on those distressed projects. He asked if there had been any update on the lifting the interdict on the Tourism Equity Fund because, if not, it will have a detrimental impact on 1. transformation and 2. recovery of the tourism sector.

The Chairperson referenced SA-owned airlines that collapsed (Mango, SA Express, SAA). He asked if an analysis had been done on these airlines which had been a strain on the fiscus. Had DoT looked at the contribution they made to the tourism industry? COSATU stated that airlines that are state-owned in other countries contribute to tourism and employment. Thus it is important to investigate what the impact has been of allowing them to collapse. Overall he was not very convinced with the strategy of allowing these airlines to collapse although they were a strain on the fiscus.

DoT response
Ms Shamilla Chettiar, DDG: Destination Development, replied about the distressed projects and specified that Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Western Cape and the North West were amongst the affected provinces. The nature of support to these provinces was in the form of assisting them to connect with potential investors. As for supporting and rescuing businesses, DoT assists them in finding operators to work with. When a request is received by a distressed project, DoT physically goes to the site to meet with the owners to collect any documentation they may have. After this, they assist in connecting the business owners with development funding or investors that work closely with Invest SA. These projects were mostly located in the rural areas except for Gauteng

Ms Sibongumusa Ngidi, DoT Chief Director: Policy and Strategy, replied that the fuel shortage had been resolved as there were reports of fewer shortages from Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) reports. However, the shortage did not lead to flight cancellations as planes simply refueled at Johannesburg.

Ms Ngidi clarified why only one TSRP target has been reached so far. The norms and standards were reflected in green as achieved because it is a once-off event that can be ticked off as completed immediately after the task has been done. In contrast, other activities are continuing ones where substantial progress has been made. Apart from the Tourism Equity Fund rollout that could not be implemented with Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), all other targets are on track to completion. DoT believes all projects will be successfully completed by the 2023/24 timeline.

Ms Nomasonto Ndlovu, SA Tourism COO, replied to the market-related questions:
-The impact of pricing on the domestic market: Things are looking good as domestic trips have surpassed the full year of 2021 as per statistics from 2021 to July 2022. The number of trips in 2022 is currently at 18.5 million (137% increase), with a spending increasing of 192%. Average domestic spending has also increased by 23%. Although the number of nights people spend in their destinations has decreased and are shorter than they were in 2019 and 2021, domestic trips are still happening.

On collaborating with SADC, this is still a challenge as the DoT mandate and jurisdiction confines it to SA and the budget is allocated under that condition. However, DoT does find ways to collaborate with SADC when they can and in operations that are not costly. The Transfrontier Parks is an example where tourists can be moved from one province to another and to another country (such as from Limpopo to Kruger then to Mozambique). However, this is not DoT’s focus as a consequence of the limitations of the fiscus.

On the number of medical tourists, DoT can try and ask its researchers to do a deep dive and slice the statistics but getting the finer details of the sub-segments on the purposes of travel would be difficult. However, DoT does want to understand and investigate this area more in future and extract those numbers.

Director General, Mr Tharage, replied about the reporting challenges by provinces. There are MinMECs were they do report to the MECs on the various challenges they are experiencing with this. The provincial heads of departments (HODs) are made aware of this.

The upkeep of cultural heritage products as well as new ones, is included in the broader plan on strategy, but the DT’s budget is limited so they have been the best they can with what they have. He also stated the DoT is awaiting a response from lawyers, concerning the Tourism Equity Fund, as this will then give the DoT clear direction forward.

On the point raised on collaboration with SADC, the DG assured the Committee that there have been efforts to present tourism packages that encompass or present a regional experience. As such, in the public domain there are packages that are inclusive of destinations such as Cape Town, Kruger, Garden Route, Victoria Falls etc. There are plans for the development of other products however they are currently faced with the issue of standardization as there must be harmonization of certain standards across the board. He noted that the Africa’s Travel Indaba presents an integrated product that enables international buyers to see what is available not just within SADC but the whole region.

On the current aviation situation, the DoT has data that indicates the importance of national carriers. However, airline operations are highly based and denominated in dollars. When people are flying into SA using other carriers that money goes to the country the carrier belongs to. Whereas if the carrier is South African, then that comes to SA as an injection into its trade account.

Minister's closing remarks
The Minister stated that she has a research paper on what has been done after COVID which had the greatest impact on the tourism sector and how they have turned it around..

Her final comments were on the airlines. The Ministry has been invited by the airline industry to a workshop in George. She is going to go with the objective of understanding the exact problem. She extended the invitation to the Committee to attend to work together to solve the issues especially the availability of seats.

The Committee discussed the feasibility of in-person committee meetings and the logistics for them before the meeting was adjourned.


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