The South African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) said the tourism sector was being paralysed by government red tape, including the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR).
Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, Satsa’s chief executive officer, David Frost, said there were hundreds of new and existing tour operators unable to work or being forced to do so illegally due to the NPTR, which has not issued tourism transport licences for two years.
The tourism association has since called on the presidency’s red tape team to urgently declare an immediate moratorium on new and renewal applications for accreditation, operating licences and permits, pending the resolution of the current impasse. Frost said the licensing paralysis was causing severe economic and reputational damage to the tourism industry.
He added many applications that have been stalled at the NPTR were from SMEs and black-owned businesses, which has a negative impact on the sustainability of tourism.
He said the tourism industry was in full support of a system that ensures that compliant organisations are running fit and proper vehicles.
“Instead of running and growing their businesses, they are spending time dealing with red tape. Some are being forced to operate illegally, resulting in vehicles with tourists on-board being impounded by traffic officers. Worse still is that businesses are closing and jobs are being lost,” said Frost.
Khotso Micha, owner of SouthernXplorer, said he has been struggling with NPTR for over four years.
Micha said his company provides adventure, cultural and historical travel packages to communities, townships and tourism attractions in the Wild Coast on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
“I have been unable to invest in the vehicles needed to expand my business, because I don’t know whether I will be able to get them licenced, and I can’t afford to have such an expensive asset sitting idle,” said Micha.
Satsa has called for an immediate 18 month amnesty or moratorium on the need for operating licences and accreditation, so they can get their tourist vehicles back on the road while implementing longer term solutions.