Recent attacks on international and domestic tourists and diplomats have forced government into overdrive in an effort to secure the country’s image as a safe place to visit.
The result is Tuesday’s launch of a pilot tourist safety monitor project‚ which will see unemployed youth trained to provide advice to tourists visiting South Africa’s must-see places.
The project is to be unveiled in Soweto by the national and Gauteng tourism departments.
Two hundred safety monitors will take up their posts at Gauteng’s tourist hot spots‚ including Soweto and OR Tambo International Airport.
The monitors will eventually form part of more than 2‚000 who will be stationed around the country’s tourist attractions.
OR Tambo International has become infamous after a series of incidents in which heavily armed robbers followed and attacked tourists.
According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa‚ 26 armed robberies involving tourists have been committed in South Africa between January and September. Nineteen of the robberies occurred after gunmen followed visitors from domestic airports.
Last week seven tourists‚ including an Iraqi diplomat‚ were attacked and assaulted shortly after they left the airport for their Johannesburg hotel. The attack followed the robbery of 36 Dutch tourists‚ who were held at gunpoint on their tour bus shortly after leaving the airport.
On Friday night six suspects‚ including a security guard allegedly linked to several airport robberies‚ were arrested. The guard and one of the suspects were arrested in a security vehicle tailing potential victims.
“The employment of these monitors is being done through the Expanded Public Works Programme. For the next three years Gauteng Tourism will work with the national tourism department to have safety monitors placed at all the province’s tourist hot spots‚” said Gauteng Tourism spokesman Barba Gaoganediwe.
He said the idea behind the project was to help both domestic and international tourists.
“This will include providing awareness about potential issues in an area. The monitors will also assist tourists in being able to report any crimes to the police.”
Gaoganediwe said all the monitors would undergo security vetting by the police and other security agencies.
He said the plan was to rally support from the private sector‚ especially in the form of sponsorship.
Mmatšatši Ramawela‚ Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO‚ said such initiatives were vital to protecting the country’s image.
She said the council had made a similar recommendation several years ago.
“Globally‚ crime negatively affects tourism. South Africa especially is affected by crime. The annual brand tracking of South Africa overseas shows that the one thing that truly impacts on South Africa’s image‚ in the mind of potential tourists‚ is personal safety‚ with the effect being that some tourists ultimately change their holiday destination.
“All initiatives to address the safety of tourists‚ both international and domestic‚ are important.”
She said the project would help feed into several initiatives the council was operating.
“These initiatives include our tourism safety programme training for those working within the tourism industry and our tourist crime incident portal‚ which we use to collect data on incidents against tourists‚ which we then pass on to police. We are also in the process of having a phone app created which all tourists can use to quickly call for help in an emergency.”
Police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo welcomed the initiative.
He said the police and other security agencies would be involved in conducting criminal background checks on those who would be employed as safety monitors.
Source: TMG Digital.