- The Department of Tourism wants to establish a Police Tourism Safety Unit specialising in the safety of tourists visiting South Africa.
- SAPS is looking into the feasibility of establishing such a unit.
- Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela says SA does not have an option, but to address the tourism safety issue.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
The Department of Tourism has had discussions with the SA Police Service (SAPS) about the possibility of establishing a Police Tourism Safety Unit specialising in the safety of tourists visiting South Africa.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela told News24 on the sidelines of ITB Berlin, one of the biggest tourism trade shows in the world, that SAPS is looking into the feasibility of establishing such a unit.
"SA is facing challenges, especially around safety and security. This undermines the country's tourism marketing efforts. That is why the SA government has developed measures to make sure we create a safe environment for tourists," he said.
One example is a number of young people who have been trained as tourism safety monitors and deployed at various tourism attractions.
"In our discussions with SAPS, looking broadly at the issue of tourism safety and security, the view was that we need to also explore the possibility of establishing a special unit within SAPS, responsible for tourism safety," said Mahlalela.
READ | 'We didn't do it': Men accused of robbing missing German tourist to remain behind bars
SAPS is looking into such a concept and what such a structure would look like in terms of staff needed and the cost involved. A study is being done about the feasibility.
"For us to take it forward there is a need to do a study on countries with similar units - for example Egypt and Ghana. Once the study is finalised, we will determine if it is doable and affordable. This is still being discussed between the department and SAPS," said Mahlalela.
"We want to focus on prevention rather than having to be reactive, and have a state organ to focus on that. Members of such a SAPS unit will then be deployed at tourist attractions across the country on a full-time basis and fall under the relevant police station in the area."
In his view, SA does not have an option, but to address the issue of tourism safety.
"If we don't do that, it will affect us as a destination negatively. We need to create a safer environment for anybody who comes to SA, whether for leisure or business tourism," he said.
"My message to the tourism world at ITB is that SA is open for business. It is a unique destination offering a wide variety of products and experiences and tourists are welcome to come and experience what we have to offer."
Mahlalela's message is echoed by South Africa's ambassador in Germany, Stone Sizani, who said: "Ordinary South Africans must help to make SA safe and make tourists feel safe. It is about informing tourists properly and also showing them good examples of areas that are safe and secure."