US issues safety alert for SA due to OR Tambo crime wave

2017-07-28 17:40 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The release of 2016 stats show a positive increase in international tourists to South Africa, however crime in and around OR Tambo could jeopardise future growth. 

SA's department of safety and security has over the last few weeks attempted to address the crime wave, which includes follow home crimes taking place at OR Tambo International Airport. However, as a result the US is advising its citizens to be cautious about travel to South Africa. 

WATCH: Road access to OR Tambo to be limited in new safety plan

The US state department issued the advisory on Wednesday, 26 July saying, "The US Mission to South Africa advises US citizens to exercise caution when arranging ground transportation from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to hotels, guest houses, and residences."

Advising against night-time arrivals 

Referencing the “follow home” robberies it says,"In some instances, US citizens have been injured or shot at during these robberies. US citizens should avoid night-time arrival flights to OR Tambo International Airport. No form of transportation from the airport is considered completely secure and risk-free.

"Travellers should exercise caution at all times when departing the airport. Travellers should also avoid changing money or utilizing ATMs at the airport, and avoid displaying expensive jewelry, watches, or luggage while traveling." 

On Friday, 21 July SA Minister of Police, Fakile Mbalula announced added new measures to be put into place over the coming weeks as part of the "master security plan" at OR Tambo International. 

ALERT: OR Tambo warns passengers of 'follow-home' crime issue 

Random checks - plan accordingly to arrive early

Plans include limiting access roads to the airport in the coming weeks. Mbalula states airport management are currently busy with "road access studies to see how to effectively achieve this" - with its effects to be communicated to passengers in the coming weeks.

“You will need to plan your trip to and from the airport well in advance of your schedule flight times, for no further delays and inconvenience to your trip will give a gap to criminals to undermine law enforcement and bring about fear and unsafe environment to our citizens,” says Mbalula.

Seven key steps in the plan include:

  • The appointment of a senior police official to head up the SAPS presence at the airport;
  •   The centralisation of the airport security control room;
  •   The introduction of a vetting system for all personnel working at the airport;
  •   The rotation of SAPS personnel and allocation of additional police resources;
  •   The allocation of additional EMPD police officers to patrol roads leading up to and coming out of the airport;
  •   The possibility on setting up an ‘airport court’ to deal with aviation-related security offences, and
  •   The installation of additional CCTV cameras at strategic points around the airport.

SEE: SA 'outperforms Thailand and Australia' as domestic tourism still lags

Safety a key one concern for travellers to SA 

According to the data released by South African Tourism, tourist volumes grew by 2.8% compared to 2015 to a total of 34.3 million tourists. SA grew in double digits by 12.8%, to reach over 10.0 million international tourists in 2016.

Research insights from South African Tourism’s annual brand tracking studies show that the number one reason why potential visitors to South Africa don’t convert their awareness, interest and desire into visiting South Africa is a concern for personal safety.

UPDATE: TBCSA backs 7 key steps for OR Tambo 'master security plan'

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) says it fully supports the new measures being put in place as part of the "master security plan" at OR Tambo International, following an increase of crime in and around SA's busiest airport.

TBCSA, CEO Mmatšatši Ramawela previously stated in response to the security plan that is vital to "involve the EMPD to patrol various routes leading up to the airport, the installation of CCTV cameras, as well as future plans to expand the implementation of these measures to other ports of entry".

“South Africa has always had a good reputation for being friendly, warm and welcoming. However, recent issues of airport follow-home robberies, projected through the media, have put a damper on this reputation.” 

“OR Tambo International Airport is the gateway to Africa’s largest economy and if we want to grow the tourism and travel sectors we need to ensure that passengers who travel through this airport feel safe,” says Andrew Stark, MD Middle East and Africa, Flight Centre Travel Group.

“Some basic things like security, lighting, dealing with hawkers and enhanced security check points would go a long way to ensuring the safety of our passengers,” adds Stark.

Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA), says it is vital for travel industry stakeholders to share with their clients the changes they can expect and to assist the police in reporting anything out of the ordinary.

“If done correctly and with the support of industry and citizens the new increased security measures implemented at OR Tambo will have a visible impact in ensuring the safety of passengers travelling through the airport.

“Travellers should be aware of their surroundings and to always ask for official badges when approached or being approached by airport security staff, porters and taxi drivers,” concludes de Vries.

What to read next on Traveller24:

WATCH: Road access to OR Tambo to be limited in new safety plan

SA 'outperforms Thailand and Australia' as domestic tourism still lags

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