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Expats may be SA tourism sector’s worst enemy

Impilo Development Project performing at the opening of the Africa Travel Indaba at Durban ICC. Pic: Bongani Mbatha: African News Agency /ANA

Impilo Development Project performing at the opening of the Africa Travel Indaba at Durban ICC. Pic: Bongani Mbatha: African News Agency /ANA

Published May 6, 2022

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South African expats may be the country's worst nightmare when it comes to the tourism sector, according to senior Irish travel commenter, Eoghan Corry.

While it is common knowledge that crime in South Africa is a major problem, crime itself is a worldwide concept, not just a SA thing, Corry told IOL this week.

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The Independent Media caught up with the Dublin based travel reporter at the Elangeni Hotel on the Durban Beach front during the start of the African Travel Indaba earlier this week.

The Indaba was aimed at promoting tourism within South Africa and the continent.

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Amanda Koetze-Nhlapo (left) with Phindile Makwakwa acting CEO of Tourism in KwaZulu Natal, Winnie Mtungwa deputy head of Tourism in Durban and Lindiwe Rakharebe CEO of Durban ICC during the media briefing at Africa Travel Indaba at Durban ICC. Pic: Bongani Mbatha: African News Agency /ANA

We asked him what he thought of South Africa’s crime rate and how it affected the country’s tourism sector through a more European lens.

“There are maybe 40 out of 200 countries that have a very low level of crime and South Africa is in a position where people are comparing them with that instead of the other 160, where there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor.

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“There's another thing, and this can never be stated often enough, is you’re very good at monitoring things, so when you monitor, and this became an issue during Covid as well, people sort of jump to conclusions and judge you on those. A lot of other countries don’t have that sort of statistical feedback.

“A third very important thing on South African crime is that your own expats are your worst ambassadors. Many South African people living abroad spend a lot of their time giving out about South Africa and the crime levels. If you were to walk through downtown Chicago or Detroit, I’m sure the first thing people wouldn't say is “Chicago is a dangerous city”,” Corry said.

According to Statista, there are around 915 million South African expats, most of which reside in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America.

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The UK and Australia house nearly 50% of all South African expats.

But it appears as though crime occurs quite frequently in these countries, according to the Australian, UK and US authorities.

In the UK (England and Wales), 2 950 000 cases of theft were reported to police for the year ending September 2021, according to the UK Office for National Statistics.

An estimated 342,627 vehicles were reported stolen.

An estimated 1 846 000 violent crimes were reported during this period. 170 973 sexual offences were reported, 63 136 of which were rape cases.

Down under, between 2020 and 2021, an estimated 34 600 robberies were reported to police, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

An estimated 22 600 sexual assault cases were reported. In addition to this, almost two million Australian adults had experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15, according to an ABS report from 2016.

116 700 break-ins were also reported for the 2020-2021 period.

Eoghan Corry. Photo: Eoghan Corry - Twitter

In addition to the negative stereotypes perpetuated by expats, the UK’s move to put South Africa on the Red List after its medical community discovered the Omicron variant, was quickly thwarted.

The red list meant flights weren’t allowed into South Africa because the UK government was under the impression that SA was the birthplace of the Omicron variant.

In mid December, SA was removed from the red list but the effects were still felt long after, according to Durban Tourism Deputy head, Winile Mntungwa.

“In October 2021, we were a bit excited because the country started easing the lockdown restrictions. I remember it was level one or two, so travel restrictions were easing. We were conservative in terms of our projections.

“We projected a 47% occupancy rate but we went up to 65%, which was predominantly the domestic market. Because during that time, we were announced to be on the red list so the international market was affected. There were a lot of cancellations. But after the Omicron situation, our festive season was positive,” Mntungwa told IOL at the Indaba.

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