Tourist safety high priority over the festive season

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Tourist safety is high on the agenda as many prepare for the festive season. Government is prioritizing safe travel for visitors after several tourists fell victim to crime when they inadvertently entered hotspots.

Safety monitors to key tourist sites are expected to be up and running by the 15th of this month. The Tourism Department says they’ll serve as a national traveler and victim support system to beef up security. The nine-meter bronze statue of late former President Nelson Mandela is a major tourist attraction at the Union Buildings. Many are simply overwhelmed and can’t get enough and some say they feel safe as they travel around.

“More safe, people are in the merry and lot of children and lot of people from overseas everybody is very comfortable, from the stand until to Mandela,” says Linda Qin, tourist guide.

But other local travelers beg to differ.

“It’s really scary to actually walk about when you don’t have somebody who’s there with you. People are now talking about the fact that even when you go to the mall you go to the toilet, people are being robbed, so it’s actually not safe,”

“Not just the festive season but right through the year because it’s impacting on the visitors coming to SA and basically, right around our country people do not feel safe. They do have anti-gun laws and nothing’s been done for the safety so how are we going to inject money or get in money if the security is not handled correctly?”

A German tourist was killed last year in Mpumalanga after being accosted by criminals while driving other tourists back to the lodge. Recently, a US tourist was shot and injured en-route to his accommodation in Simons Town via Nyanga in Cape Town. The incident was reportedly the second attack on a tourist within a year. Mpumalanga provincial authorities say they’re leaving nothing to chance.

“We have digitalized communication with visiting tourists. We’re still working on an APP which we want to ideally link to the police stations which are close by where we can monitor who’s in the province, how long will that person be in the province, who’s the tourist and as they are here this is the number through the APP when they encounter challenges they can contact for them to be easily accessible. So, we are working on that APP to make our environment user-friendly for our tourists,” says Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane.

Kruger National Park officials say the game reserve is safe for tourists. But the problem is getting there, which is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies. Police say they won’t negotiate with criminals.

“SAPS and all law enforcement agencies will be in full force to maintain law and order. All police officers, police reservists, including office bound members will be roped in to assist in festive season policing operations. It is on this score that we want to give a firm warning to criminals and those who plan to conduct themselves outside the law,” says Police Minister Bheki Cele.

According to Statistics South Africa, the tourism sector recorded more than four million tourist arrivals in the first half of this year. This was a significant increase from the 2, 3 million arrivals between January and June last year.

The Tourism Department is planning a safety event next week in Mpumalanga.