Editor's Note

Issue 60

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The great showman P.T. Barnum famously declared, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” When it comes to crime statistics, however, tourism operators might be forgiven if they disagreed.

The fact is that of late, South Africa has been painted in a very negative light, with US, UK and Australian authorities warning their citizens that visiting this country can be hazardous to their health. Recent crime statistics released by the SAPS do nothing to mitigate this, showing as they do an increase in violent crime beyond the limits of the acceptable.

Statistics, however, are not the be-all and end-all. South Africa is an enormous country of staggering diversity. Tourism operators know that the experience of visitors to this country is overwhelmingly positive, because their experiences are guided and curated by experts. At the same time, tourism is incredibly important for jobs, and the weak rand is making SA affordable to those with dollars and pounds. So how can the industry fight back against the stats-driven doomsday narrative?

According to communication strategist Sarah Britten, social media could be effective here. Britten was quoted in The Citizen as saying, “A rebuttal won’t necessarily be believable coming from an official organisation such as SA Tourism or the government, but if there [is] lots of positive word of mouth, this could lead to a groundswell of alternative opinion.”

Britten said South African tourism outfits including B&Bs, lodges, and tour guides as well as “overseas visitors who have actually been here and had a good time” should be challenged “to remind potential tourists that most visitors have a great experience”. She recommended focusing on Instagram and Twitter for this purpose and suggested collating all comments under one trackable hashtag for more impact.

Explore SA believes this is great advice and urges all readers to play their part in this struggle.

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