There may be some relief soon for tour operators, following the Transport Department appointing an interim National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) Committee to deal with the backlog in processing operating licenses for small and medium-sized tour operators. This comes after the tour operating industry demanded that the department addresses the absence of a committee, which resulted in many small tour operators halting operations because they did not have licenses.
The department said in a statement that it had increased the NPTR support staff capacity by adding 17 posts to deal with public transport issues relating to the issuing of operating licenses to transport tourists and conduct interprovincial services. It would also redesign and implement the National Land Transport Information System (NTLIS) to enable tour operators to apply for licences online. “The designs and proposals that are in the NPTR module on the redesigned NTLIS are aligned to some of the proposed solutions presented by the National Red Tape Reduction Task Team and the tourism industry,” the department said.
“This is meant to improve efficiency and the turn-around times to finalise applications. The prolonged absence of an NPTR Committee and the ambiguities of interpretation as well as the implementation of the National Land Transport Act… will now be a thing of the past for many operators.” The committee was committed to engaging stakeholders to address the challenges and grievances of the industry, the statement said.
“Scheduled stakeholder engagements will sit to create a common understanding and interpretation of the National Land Transport Act and its regulations, as well as to deal with specific matters raised to date by stakeholders,” it said. “The department further acknowledges the critical role of the tourism sector in the country’s economy as an important contributor to government’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan, and therefore an important conduit for the creation of jobs.”
It noted that tourism remained an important building block for the growth of rural and township economies, which had to be driven by efficient and integrated transport systems as enablers for the development of the industry, growing the economy and reversing the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than a month ago the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) called on the Presidency’s new-appointed red tape team to declare a moratorium on the renewal of operating licences and permits for tour operators.
Due to the backlog, many tour operators have been forced to operate illegally because they cannot renew their licences, leading to their vehicles being impounded and their businesses not being able to operate. The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by the lockdowns, with many SMMEs struggling to keep their doors open.