Cape Town - Following an upsurge in criminals targeting tourists, the Department of Tourism in partnership with Gauteng Tourism Authority has launched a new National Tourism Monitors Programme.
Launching the initiative on Tuesday, 17 October in Soweto, according to the department, the National Tourism Monitors Programme aims to enhance the visitor experience as well as improve the safety of tourists.
The programme is set to create employment for 200 unemployed youth, aged 18 to 35 years who will be trained, mentored and placed as monitors at tourism destination for a 36-month period. Each participant will receive a stipend and uniform in line with the Expanded Public Works Programme.
The two hundred safety monitors will take up their posts at Gauteng's tourist hot spots‚ including Soweto and OR Tambo International Airport, and will also form part of more than 2 000 monitors who will be stationed around the country's tourist attractions going forward.
OR Tambo International has become a major concern following a series of follow-home crimes involving international and domestic tourists. On Friday, 13 October a group of tourists‚ including an Iraqi diplomat‚ were attacked and assaulted shortly after they left the airport for their hotel in Johannesburg.
SEE: Diplomats robbed leaving OR Tambo airport
The attack followed the robbery of 36 Dutch tourists‚ who were held at gunpoint on their tour bus shortly after leaving the airport.
SEE: Dutch tour group robbery: How do we make our tourists feel safe again?
The South African Police Service (SAPS) says recent arrests made over the weekend are a "breakthrough' in what has been dubbed the "airport-following" robberies committed in and around the Johannesburg area.
SEE: OR Tambo follow-home arrests: ‘Expect more heightened security’
Tourism Monitor project
According to the department, recruitment started in June of this year for youth with a matric, good communication skills, ability to speak English and two African Languages, prepared to work shifts and with no criminal record. All recruited tourism monitors will be placed mostly in areas in which they reside.
"Tourism monitors will receive accredited and non-accredited training, mentorship, practical work-based experience," says the department.
"The tourism safety monitors program is an initiative we hope to roll out to other provinces, says Minister of Tourism, Thokozile Xasa speaking at the launch. "We want to create access to information, ensure safety in destinations, quality services and create experiences."
Xasa further adds that "Sustainability is important for a programme like this, monitors must be proactive and deliberate in passing down values learnt."
'Tourists safety a priority'
In an interview with the SATraveTrade, CEO of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona says the programme is about making sure that there is visibility around safety and security for both international and domestic tourists.
Speaking at the launch, Gauteng's MEC Lebogang Maile says, "We need to improve safety in townships so that tourists are safe and there is a revival of townships."
Maile says this programme will also address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality and with this initiative, it is a chance to show other nations that South Africans have 'Ubuntu'.
According to MEC of Gauteng Department of Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, this program aligns with the Tshepo one million initiative to get youth employed.
The Tshepo one million initiative helps with boosting the youth with necessary skills.
"It is important to our youth as it equips them with the skills to contribute to the economy.
"The programme aims to increase community intelligence getting them to play an active role in sustaining tourism.
"We are targeting domestic tourist. We must revive Shot Left campaign as it encouraged domestic tourism," says Nkosi-Malobane.
Added to this, Xasa says South Africans must market South Africa as a value destination and it must be a safe destination.
Xasa also says SA's township experience must become part of the whole value chain.
"This requires passion. If you are not passionate you will drop out," Xasa adds. "We hope that you will take this opportunity and do tourism with us."