The Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) has 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. Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, SATSA slammed the government for its failure to resolve the absence of a board at the National Public Transport Regulator (NTPR), which is responsible for issuing operating licences and permits for tour operators.
As a result, 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. SATSA CEO David Frost has described the situation as a licensing paralysis, which has a far-reaching impact on the economy. Frost said that this was also causing severe economic and reputational damage to the tourism industry as it was inhibiting the growth of SMMEs and large enterprises and their ability to create jobs.
He also revealed that most of the applications which were pending, were from SMMEs and black-owned businesses. “The tourism industry is fully supportive of a system that ensures that compliant organisations are running fit and proper vehicles, as this is critical in maintaining and enhancing South Africa’s reputation as a tourism destination,” he said. “Tourism vehicle operators are trying to follow the process, but cannot obtain licences timeously, and even worse, over the past two years not at all.
“They cannot hire additional staff because vehicles can’t operate, (and) instead of running and growing their businesses they are spending time dealing with red tape.” SATSA Deputy Chairperson Oupa Pilane described the situation as untenable. He said that the NTPR licensing debacle was endangering the overall sustainability of the sector and the creation of new businesses and jobs.
“While government should be playing a pivotal role in creating an environment that enables growth, the reality is that government red tape is impeding the sector and the entire system is paralysed, with dire consequences for both existing and new tour operators,” he said. Tour business owner Khotso Micha, who is the owner of SouthernXplorer which operates in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and the Wild Coast, said that he was disappointed that the government was failing to address an issue that was crippling small businesses like his.
“My business’ struggle with the NTPR has been for over four years,” he said. “I’ve been unable to invest in the vehicles needed to expand my businesses because I don’t know whether I will be able to get them licensed. The NTPR’s failures are catastrophic for my business.”