The City of Cape Town held a prize-giving ceremony to acknowledge the work being done by the Tourism Safety Ambassadors on Monday February 4.
The Tourism Safety Ambassadors are appointed by Cape Town Tourism (CTT) and serve as extra pairs of eyes and ears on the ground in the CBD and the Bo-Kaap tourism hot spots.
They guide locals and visitors around the city, offer advice, share safety tips and keep a keen eye out for any suspicious behaviour.
Mayor Dan Plato said he was pleased to see the youth playing an active part in making society better. “This is another great example of tourism and job creation coming together. I hope that other young people will look to these ambassadors as role-models to see what it is possible to achieve when you stay focused on your goals.”
The ambassadors work closely with their partners in crime prevention such as the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch, the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
They keep in touch with each other via a WhatsApp group. Some of the group’s success included being instrumental in the bust and arrest of a gang of 10 ATM credit card scammers who were targeting mainly tourists; and preventing several attempted muggings of tourists. They also prevented a tourist from being scammed at an ATM in a well-known hot spot, and assisted SAPS by identifying suspicious cars in the area.
The City’s Mayco member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, presented the ambassadors with a certificate of commendation for the work they are doing and to acknowledge their successes to date.
This was followed by a walkabout with the mayor, Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy, and Mr Vos to experience first-hand what the ambassadors encounter on a daily basis.
“I tip my hat to this group of young people who are going about their task without fear. They are disrupting the tourism hot spots where criminals were becoming a nuisance by preying on unsuspecting locals and visitors to the city. Some of them have been threatened but this has not deterred them from doing what they have been trained to do best. Instead they have soldiered on and notched up some really good successes,” said Mr Vos.
Mr Duminy said concerns around visitor safety continues to be one of the biggest barriers in growing tourism numbers to Cape Town. “The increase in reported tourism safety incidents has spurred us to take action. This safety ambassador initiative is a welcome addition to our other tourism safety schemes like the four-step industry safety plan and our special band-aid programme. We would like to call on government, corporates, small business and communities to expand this Tourism Safety Ambassador programme across Cape Town but also to ensure we can financially sustain it all year round.”
The Tourism Safety Ambassadors have become a familiar sight on the streets at tourist hotspots and they have earned the trust of many local business owners as well as residents who know them by name. One of the ambassadors, Munifa Canterbury, from Bo-Kaap, is a black belt martial arts instructor and competitor. She said making a difference in her community has always been a passion.
She said being a tourism safety officer has given her the platform to put some of her skills into action while earning an income that has in turn benefitted her household.
Cleo Moses, who lives in Elsies River, said she was grateful to be chosen to be a part of this ambassador programme.
Being jobless after completing her tertiary studies brought a sense of discouragement and low self-esteem to her for about two years, as it did to a number of other young people in her area.
She said she was especially eager to be productive and possibly learn new skills in the workplace.