Op-Ed: Will massive O.R Tambo heist affect tourism to South Africa?


The breaking news on the evening of the 07 March 2017, was that R24 million had been stolen from a plane at O.R Tambo International Airport.

The armed robbery occurred around 7:45 pm. The robbers had disguised themselves as uniformed police and carried fake ACSA permits.

The previous large heist at O.R Tambo happened in 2006 and involved R100 million in foreign currency. ACSA has

In the age of social media, Twitter was flooded with tweets about this tragic event. OR Tambo is the most important point-of-entry by air in Southern Africa and it is the regional hub for Southern Africa, with millions of visitors passing through it.

The World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report always highlights that safety and security concerns as among the key reasons for a dampened demand for travel to South Africa.  Low levels of personal safety and security, therefore, lead tourists to consider other destinations, and this robs the country of the developmental potential of tourism.

The recent acts of xenophobia do very little to create confidence in the country for citizens and tourists. A country that cannot manage its internal affairs such as safety and security, and has Internally Displaced People (IDPs) because of xenophobic violence, becomes a failed state. Tourism is able to create labour intensive jobs because the growth of tourism leads to more jobs. The low barriers of entry for the majority of

On the other hand, tourism leads to more jobs and that in turn leads to economic growth. The low barriers of entry for the majority of tourism-related sectors means that it’s attractive for entrepreneurial activity for small and medium enterprises that create jobs at a faster pace. While the latest news is that the South African economy contracted in the fourth quarter of 2016, the tourism industry is oblivious to that reality as perennial growth is the order of the day. In 2016, tourism achieved a compounded growth of 13%, which is unheard of in a country that is struggling to achieve a mere 1% growth rate. Tourism has succeeded in a difficult enabling environment, whilst other sectors such as mining have experienced perennial decline further exacerbated by low commodity prices, and labour instability that had increased the cost of labour. Tourism has outperformed all

In 2016, tourism achieved a compounded growth of 13%, which is unheard of in a country that is struggling to achieve a mere 1% growth rate. Tourism has succeeded in a difficult enabling environment, whilst other sectors such as mining have experienced decline further exacerbated by low commodity prices and labour instability, which has also increased the cost of labour. Tourism has outperformed all

Tourism has outperformed all other economic sectors in South Africa for more than 10 years, and today is the number one foreign exchange earner, hence we call tourism the ‘’new gold’’. Our economy has changed, moving from production (mining, manufacturing) towards consumption (tourism, banking) which are services located in the tertiary sector of the economy, which are experiencing an upward trajectory in growth. South Africa must spend more time and resources in sectors of the economy that have more of a competitive advantage, and tourism is such a sector. South Africa is arguably the most beautiful country in the world, as we have the natural resource base above the soil to attract the world, as South Africa is basically a ‘’World in One Country’’. A favourable visa system remains a major stumbling block for tourists that wish to travel to South Africa. For many Africans, it’s much

However, an unfavourable visa system remains a major stumbling block for tourists who wish to travel to South Africa. For many Africans, it’s much easier to get an American visa than a South African visa, which means that business tourism events such as continental meetings are being taken to other African countries because South Africa is increasingly being seen as an impenetrable fortress.

Opportunities for shopping and leisure tourism are being missed. Just the previous week, the tourism industry had descended at Sandton Convention Centre for the business tourism exhibition #MeetingsAfrica17, where South Africa was showcasing its open for business tourism, a market that is high yield and not price elastic. The Department of Home Affairs must be commended for the 90 days visa-free travel between South Africa and Russia. This means that Russians can be actively attracted to destination South Africa.

Air access to bring more flights to South Africa would ensure that tourism increases its growth from 13% to possibly 50% if a more favourable environment is created for tourism. This crisis must not let us despair, it is pregnant with opportunities to demand a Commission of Inquiry into what happened at the OR Tambo International Airport. This is once again an opportunity for the tourism industry to indicate that the Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) demands that we work closely to ensure safety and security for our tourist across the tourism value chain. An improvement in the safety and security for tourism primarily benefit the locals who will have better policing. The Tourism Crisis Management Plan must now kick-off as we seek to restore confidence in South Africa.

Credit: CNBC Africa



Published on 10 March 2017 | 9:41 am at Source