Business Maverick

TOURIST SAFETY

Sun City and North West tourism operators join forces to stop attacks on tour buses

Sun City and North West tourism operators join forces to stop attacks on tour buses
Illustrative image | (Photo: Rawpixel | Shelley Christians)

Gangs from Gauteng are believed to be behind the spate of attacks on tour buses carrying international tourists in the province.

With peak tourism season upon us, the private sector has been forced to step in to stem the rising number of attacks on tour buses carrying international visitors in the North West. 

A new partnership with the provincial government will hopefully turn around the spate of crime, which entails armed gangs in high-powered cars attempting to force tour buses off the road. 

The attacks, believed to be organised from Gauteng, are aimed at tour buses carrying international travellers to Sun City, the Pilanesberg and other destinations in the province. The criminals are after foreign currency, cameras, jewellery, cellphones and other valuables. 

In one case, a luxury coach’s front tyres were shot out but the quick-thinking driver not only drove the highwaymen off the road but continued on the destroyed rims to safety. 

So far there have been no injuries or deaths due to these attacks in the province; only traumatised tourists, which bodes ill for this key driver for socioeconomic development in South Africa. 

Elsewhere, attacks on tourists have resulted in significant injuries and deaths. 

In a recent high-profile attack, an eminent American TB researcher, Professor David Russell, was robbed and attacked in Philippi on 27 November. Russell later said he was traumatised, feared for his life and that he doubted he would ever return to South Africa.

On 7 November, an elderly German couple was attacked and robbed along Baden Powell Drive, near the Wolfgat Nature Reserve, while taking photos.

On 10 August, renowned British orthopaedic surgeon Kar Hao Teoh was shot dead in his vehicle, with his family inside, in Nyanga, after Google Maps rerouted them during violent protests.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Lebo Diale, North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism said so far, the province has had three attacks on tour buses. 

The first, on 7 October at the Tsitsing junction on the R556 towards Sun City, involved nine Spanish nationals, a driver and a tour operator. In that case, jewellery, watches and money were stolen. A case was opened with the police the following day. 

In the second matter, on 24 November, the attack took place between Malokwane and Segwaelane en route to Sun City from Pretoria. A white Audi Q3 tried to force the bus off the road near Lekgalong village, outside Rustenburg.

This incident involved 32 Austrians, a local person and an Austrian tour guide. Nothing was taken as the driver refused to pull over and drove the attackers’ car off the road as they sprayed the coach with bullets. 

In the third incident, on 2 December, six Germans, two Poles, a “European”, two Britons and a driver were robbed of euros, bank cards, watches, jewellery and cellphones.

The government, private sector and local community involvement is key to stopping the attacks on tourists, Diale acknowledged. 

“We know that what is critical in moving forward is to ensure that everybody in this industry who is involved in receiving or transporting tourists must be aware of this plan. It must be communicated to them so that they know what to do and how to do it, at what time.” 

She said the private sector’s helpline will allow the public to communicate incidents or to post their knowledge of threats, so that action can be taken immediately. 

Sun City general manager Brett Hoppé, commended the provincial government and said it was incredible to see the effort that has been made to deal with the issue urgently by all departments, from the MEC to the police. 

“We have been fairly blessed in the province in that we have not particularly had incidents of this nature to this point, so this necessitated us to develop a plan very quickly. It’s a very powerful example of what can be achieved.”

After the attacks, private sector tourism stakeholders in the Pilanesberg region met on 7 and 11 December to develop a protocol to ensure tour bus safety. 

“A protocol has been created whereby all tour operators transporting international coaches that are entering the province via the N4 are predominantly requested to use the N4. If they do use the R556, the province has deployed 35 vehicles which will be escorting operators along that route and others of significance across the province.”

Sun City has also employed tourism hospitality students who will be recording the details of the international tour bus movements through a dedicated email address and WhatsApp number that will subsequently be shared with the police. The information will also assist with intelligence efforts. 

“The information will be communicated through the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, which provides inbound tourism services to operators and other hospitality organisations to be kept informed through daily reports which will be shared by other data collection agents located at Sun City and interface with the National Tourism safety initiative.”

Hoppé said some of the initiatives will remain confidential for now, “but believe me, they’ve taken the challenge enormously seriously”.

“And I’m really pleased to say it is with a great sense of comfort that we enter the season. We’re looking forward to a fantastic season; our occupancies appear to be extremely buoyant.” 

The tourism safety and festive season helpline can be contacted at [email protected] or WhatsApp (text only) on +27 064 859 6795. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Doble says:

    While it may not be a total reflection, the country’s reputation for lawlessness and random attacks is clearly killing the geese that lay the golden eggs.
    It is a daily occurrence from Table Mountain to the Kruger Park.
    Many years ago while living in the Lowveld, a new minister asked for contributions to boost tourism. “Start with improved access and security” was the general message. That’s not my job was his retort; I am only responsible for tourism.

    • Geoff Coles says:

      I recall some 15 years back, leaving Kruger for Northern KZN seeing signs when passing the extensive pine forests saying ‘Crime hotspots, do not stop’.
      Living in Helderberg we along used to alerts and attacks on the N2 into Cape Town so I very rarely travel the route, and not at night at all.

      • Gavin Hillyard says:

        We’ve lived in Somerset West for 45 years, travelling regularly to Cape Town and back at all hours. I keep alert and try to see if there are any issues with cars up ahead. We’ve never had a hint of a problem other than being held up with the recent taxi nonsense.

    • Dermot Quinn says:

      Imagine a country with such stupid ministers….the mind boggles.

  • Confused Citizen says:

    So local tourists/visitors should just fend for themselves. Do the resorts/lodges share the information about preferable/’safer’ routes with all their customers?

  • Terence Murphy says:

    a couple of observations: Nothing says come on holiday and relax like an armed escourt, and what are the financial implications to outbound tourism wholesalers send out bus loads of tourists from an insurance point of view should these insidents continue. Will there be a no sell policy implemented on South Africa ? The real damage will be the tour groups that when given the option of destinations will choose the safer option than South Africa

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Some interesting comments 🙂
    Takes me back to when Sun City opened .
    Tour busses super organised , Gary Player’s daughter worked on them as a host and guide .
    The only issue back then was vehicles crashing into stray donkeys .
    Time passed nothing done , so a bunch of dudes shot anything near the road , they claimed over 50 !
    Problem solved !
    Now we have the “Wild North West ‘ , with outlaws stalking the bush .
    So we now need folks to ‘ride shotgun ‘ .
    Sure this will scare off tourists and others , most do a look see at the country before visiting !
    Some years ago , met a guy from the UK , coming here for a wedding .
    Part of the trip was a car ride through central Jhb , Hillbrow etc .
    Said he was a nutter , wanted to see for himself !

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    This is all misinformation, with people trying to damage the image of the ANC.
    We all know that there is no problem for tourists, because the recent Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, categorically denied that there was an abnormal threat to tourists after a German tourist was shot and killed outside Kruger National Park near Numbi Gate. This was an isolated case, she said, and tourists were encouraged to visit South Africa.
    So there you have it. Come to South Africa to see the sights and our wonderful animals and provide target practice for the criminals that Minister Cele doesn’t want to worry about.
    I have always encouraged overseas people to come and experience the wildlife, cultures and stunning variety of scenery in SA and without fail, they respond that they will never visit SA because it is too dangerous. That message will now start to resonate wider and wider and tourism will dry up.
    I no longer suggest that anyone visit SA. I do not want my conscience to haunt me until I die, should someone I encouraged to visit SA, be murdered.

    • Gavin Hillyard says:

      There should be no doubt that we have descended into a gangster state. SA needs a reboot and soon. Perhaps a referendum on the reinstating of the death penalty for murder and rape? I know all the bleeding hearts will say that it’s not a deterrent. Maybe so, but how often does a murderer or rapist get released and do it again? The death penalty will at least remove this possibility.

  • John Patson says:

    Where are all the old Casspirs? Surely they can be bought out of storage and used as tourist busses.
    Just think how much free publicity for Sin City if one was painted in corporate colours and logos — it would become the most photographed vehicle at the airport.
    Plus think of the joy spectators would have seeing 100kg plus tourists climb into them, it would get its own TV show!

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