Attacks on tourists threaten S. African tourism: MPs

South Africa's president Cyril ramaphosa
South Africa’s President Cyril ramaphosa

South African MPs warned on Monday (14 May 2018) that attacks on tourists will threaten tourism which is a major driver of the economy in the country.

This came after three German tourists were robbed by four men in Ballito near the eastern coastal city of Durban on Sunday. The tourists reportedly were accosted by the men wielding an AK-47 on their way to King Shaka International Airport in an Uber taxi. The tourists were robbed of their luggage and other belongings, but were physically unharmed during the robbery.

“As tourism is a major driver of the economy, any threat to the safety of tourists has dire consequences,” warned Lusizo Makhubele-Mashele, Acting Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism.

South Africa has a lot to offer tourists in terms of natural beauty, sports, adventure and conference facilities, Makhubele-Mashele said.

Tourists must feel safe and, most importantly, must be able to tell their friends and family good stories about South Africa and its people when they return home to encourage more people to visit, she said.

“When tourists are subjected to life-threatening incidents such as this, South Africa’s tourism industry suffers,” Makhubele-Mashele said.

“We call on the law enforcement agencies to do all in their power to bring these criminals to book,” said Mkhubele-Mashele.

Sunday’s robbery is the latest in a series of attacks on tourists in South Africa which has a persistent high crime rate.

In September last year, 36 Dutch tourists were robbed on their way from OR Tambo International Airport to a hotel in Johannesburg. One person was injured during the robbery which forced the group to suspend their trip to South Africa.

About one month later, British model Sarah MacDonnell was robbed by a “machete-wielding gang” while she and her five pals were staying in a “luxury villa” in Cape Town.

At the end of last year, internationally acclaimed actor Richard E Grant was mugged in Cape Town while in South Africa on holiday.

These attacks have apparently dampened the enthusiasm of potential tourists who want to visit South Africa, tourism agencies complain.

The tourism sector directly contributed 2.9 percent to South African gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, according to the latest release of Statistics South Africa’s annual Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report.

The tourism sector’s 686,596 employees outnumber the respective workforces of utilities (118,000 employees) and mining (444, 000 employees). In 2016 total employment in South Africa (both formal and informal) amounted to 15.8 million workers. Of these, 4.4 percent (or one in every 23) were directly employed in the tourism sector, a rise from the 3.8 percent recorded in 2005, the report says.