Tourism safety under the spotlight: Numbi Gate fatal wounding | The Planner

According to the 2021 Travel and Tourism Development Index, which the World Economic Forum released in May 2022, South Africa’s ranks 112/117 in Safety and Security globally. This dismal scoring is damaging to South Africa’s society at large, while also having numerous negative repercussions – including being a deterrent for potential tourists.

Nothing changes if nothing changes

The fatal wounding of a German tourist during an attempted hijacking in Mpumalanga yesterday has brought the issue to the fore. Rosemary Anderson, the national chair of FEDHASA (Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa), says, “We are shaken to the core by this tragic incident and extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the German tourist who lost his life in yesterday’s attempted hijacking.

“If Covid necessitated a state of emergency, then surely the pandemic of crime does too.”

“We simply cannot allow this to happen again, and as FEDHASA we trust, that in addition to the rapid mobilisation we have seen from SAPS and other stakeholders on the ground to find and bring the perpetrators to justice, that there will be real commitment in dealing with the root cause so that no family need ever endure this loss again. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We need a deep, sustainable and catalytic nationwide intervention to address the root cause of crime in our country. If Covid necessitated a state of emergency, then surely the pandemic of crime does too.”

A botched hijacking

The attempted hijacking took place on the R538 when four tourists were travelling to Numbi Gate. A statement issued by the South African Police Service (SAPS) shares that the vehicle was allegedly stopped by three armed suspects in a VW Caddy, who instructed the tourists to open the doors of their vehicle. The driver reportedly locked all the doors, following which one of the suspects shot him through the window. He died on the scene. The suspects reportedly sped off in their vehicle without taking anything from the tourists.

SAPS has launched a manhunt for the perpetrators. Anyone who has information that may assist the police to find them is urged to call the Crime Stop number at 08600 10111 or send information via MYSAPSAPP. All information will be treated as confidential, and callers may opt to remain anonymous.

Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism is also offering a reward of R50 000 for information that will lead to the successful prosecution of the perpetrators.

A known crime hotspot

Numbi Gate is a recognised hotspot for criminal activity. On 02 September 2022, Deputy Minister Fish Mahlalela spoke at a stakeholder engagement to promote tourism safety in this area. He shared that numerous incidents have occurred at Numbi Gate over the past year.

“Some of the ongoing incidents that were reported included: hijackings, attempted hijackings, robberies, motor vehicle accidents, attack on tourists and break-in and theft at tourism establishments. These incidents continue to be a grave concern and has the potential to discourage tourism inbound in the province,” he said.

To address the problem, he shared that the National Tourism Safety Strategy had been created, which centred on three key pillars of action:

  • 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 should an incident of crime occur)
  • Aftercare Programmes (providing care and comfort to a tourist in distress immediately after an incident has occurred and beyond).

Some of the practical measures include patrols by Hi-Tech security and increased police visibility, reducing tourist vulnerabilities and eliminate opportunities for violent crime aimed at tourist operations (which could include fixing the potholes along this stretch of road), and providing unemployed youth with skills and training to help them find employment opportunities.

The Director-General and the National Commissioner of Police also signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the end of 2019 on a collaboration to help prevent, investigate and combat crime that impacts the tourism industry and the safety and wellbeing of tourists.

Germany is one of SA’s biggest international source markets

Clearly more needs to be done, and this most recent tragedy is going to lead to more negative publicity around the world about destination South Africa. German media has been covering the incident in detail since the news broke. Stats SA’s Tourism and Migration July report shows that 76 327 German tourists visited South Africa between January and July 2022, which makes up 11% of total overseas visitors for that period.

TBCSA CEO Tshifiwa Tshivhengwa has previously said that he believes protecting the tourism sector is essential to help South Africa attain its growth target of 21 million international tourist arrivals by 2030.

“As TBCSA, we represent the interests of the private sector in the tourism space. Tourism is important to the economy, and safeguarding it will secure jobs in both the public and the private sector. We remain committed to finding workable and sustainable solutions to safety issues. This will allow tourism to grow and create multiple opportunities,” said Tshivhengwa.

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Cover photo by AnnaKate Auten on Unsplash