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South Africa: Tour operators sound the alert as bureaucracy chokes recovery

By David Whitehouse

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Posted on June 30, 2022 04:00

Streetlights illuminate the central business district in Cape Town
Cape Town is a big tourism draw for South Africa. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

South Africa risks shooting itself in the foot as regulatory failings for the licensing of tour operators cripple the industry’s capacity to respond to a rebound in international tourism.

Hundreds of tour operators are unable to work legally due to the failure of the licensing authority, the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR), to function, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said in a briefing last week.

South Africa’s tourism sector, which generates 10% of GDP, was hard hit by Covid-19. The sector is operating at 30% to 40% capacity in comparison with 2019,  the country’s Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) said in March. The tourism sector lost 470,000 jobs in the pandemic with only 37% of employees receiving 100% of their salaries this February, the PMG said.

Systemic failure of the NPTR’s licence system began over five years ago, and for most of the last two and a half years, the NPTR has operated without a board. That means no operating licences have been processed since December 2019, SATSA says. “Government is yet to resolve this

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