Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently attacked at the Sandton Convention Cnetre. Picture: Bang Showbiz

ALTHOUGH it has shown a slight dip in the past year, crime in the country remains a serious problem, particularly in the fields of common assault, femicide and hijacking.

Crime Statistics SA recorded a slight decrease in the total number of crimes between 2017 and 2018 - with 2231420 recorded against 2204292, dropping by 27128.

The targeting of high-profile foreign victims is raising concern that this could, in the long run, impact on the lucrative tourism industry, which accounts for a major part of the country’s gross domestic product.

According to an annual review by the World Travel and Tourism Council released last month, travel and tourism in South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8billion to the economy in 2018, representing 8.6% of all economic activity in the country, and making South Africa the largest tourism economy in Africa.

In 2017, tourism contributed R136.1bn, about 2.9% of GDP.

In 2016, according to Stats SA in the annual Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report, the tourism sector was a larger contributor to GDP than agriculture, but smaller than other industries such as construction and mining.

But there are growing worries on attacks on high-profile foreign visitors. Two weekend ago, a video circulated on social media showing the attack on actor and former professional bodybuilder and powerlifter Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was attacked by a man on Saturday evening at the Sandton Convention Centre during his sports event, Arnold Classic Africa festival.

Earlier in the month, 20 foreign students, mostly from the US, were robbed at gunpoint at a Mamelodi school in Tshwane. The criminals got away with numerous electronic devices, purses and plane tickets, among other things.

But even in the midst of such negative incidents, according to Blessing Manale, the chief director of communications at the Department of Tourism, the industry continues to grow albeit at a slower rate than anticipated.

And despite tough economic conditions, international tourist arrivals grew by 1.8% (10.5 million) from January to December 2018, compared with the same period in 2017. This growth was driven mainly by African markets - which accounts for more than 70% of our arrivals, he explained.

“Issues pertaining to crime and tourism is important since effective crime prevention and changing negative perceptions can contribute significantly to economic growth by promoting investments and tourism,” said Manale.

“Tourism may be seen as a catalyst for economic growth and government’s job creation drive in South Africa. Regrettably, however, crime in the country constitutes a threat to a thriving tourism industry. The analysis revealed that crime remains a threat to tourism, with robbery as the most prevalent crime. Crimes against tourists can undoubtedly impair a destination’s reputation. This problem is also often exacerbated by the media’s often disproportionate reporting of tourism crimes.

“The department condemns all acts and incidences of crimes levelled on our citizens and visitors,” he said.