Trashy city tours

Following the decision of a tour guiding company to put an end to its walking tours in the city centre, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted a survey which revealed issues in the CBD that may affect tourism.

The company, which does not want to be named, said, in an email to the Cape Chamber, that due to recent experiences, they had decided not to do any more City Tours, neither walking nor driven, through the city and surrounds.

Some of the reasons include squalor involving homelessness and vagrancy near tourist attractions; aggressive begging; a decline in cleanliness in the city; uncontrolled vendors; gridlocked traffic and the lack of traffic control.

In an email sent to the Cape Chamber of Commerce, the tour company said the filth and squalor is extremely unsettling and uncomfortable for tourists. “They have frequently asked me to move on and out of the city as a result. All of this has led to a huge uptick in petty crime and is reflected in numerous adverse experiences by tourists and locals as reported on in various posts on our Guiding Facebook Groups.”

“Isn’t it amazing that when there is a big event like the Two Oceans Marathon, The Cape Town Cycle Tour and The Big Walk, that traffic police and their vehicles are out in force idling at intersections, chatting and having coffee and doing very little else?

“In summary I and my fellow guides find that our amazing city has deteriorated in so many ways under the present council administration and sadly to most of us the incumbent management tasked with looking after our city have been a huge disappointment all round.”

As a result of the email, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted a survey to which 211 people responded to questions relating to the state of the CBD.

Of the 211, 57 % said the CBD was cleaner than it was five years ago; 53 % said law enforcement had stayed the same, while 25 % said law enforcement had improved, and 20 % said it had worsened; 53 % said traffic control had gotten worse, while 14 % said it had improved. According to the survey, 63 % said that refuse collection had remained the same, and 23 % said it had gotten worse; 81 % said they felt unsafe as pedestrians in the CBD at night, while 76 % said they felt safe during business hours.

Fifty-six % said informal trading was out of control; and 56 % had been, or have seen tourists being harassed by beggars or vagrants; while 77 % said vagrancy in the CBD was worse than a year ago.

Chamber chairperson Janine Myburgh said the results contrast sharply with the response to similar questions at the V&A Waterfront where 95% of respondents said they felt safe and that conditions there were clean and orderly.

She said problem areas were the Grand Parade, the area surrounding the Castle, the District Six Museum and the Parliamentary buildings, all important tourist attractions.

Vagrancy and begging were also cited as serious issues.

“I think the survey tells us we have work to do. The situation is a lot better than it was in 2000 but there are clear signs that standards are starting to slip and we need to do something about it. The V&A Waterfront sets the standards and we should aim for their 95% approval rating if we are to keep our tourist industry thriving.”

Enver Duminy, the CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said they were working with all relevant stakeholders and agencies to enhance visitor safety around the city and other tourism hotspots.

“It’s of utmost importance that visitors can visit our open spaces and feel safe.

“Crime is an unfortunate reality in any major destination and we caution visitors to avoid carrying valuables in plain sight. They should avoid going to places they are unsure of unless accompanied by a certified tour guide and only visit ATMs in well-lit places where there are security guards available. We encourage visitors to visit either of our two Visitor Information Centres in the city to get a list of our safety tips.”

He said the Joint Association Members Meeting held an interactive panel and workshop recently to discuss visitor safety, among other concerns, and the consensus was that safety was everyone’s responsibility and when working together, more can be achieved.

The mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, said the City of Cape Town wanted to understand the methodology used for the survey.

“If the aim was to ascertain how safe the CBD is for tourists, then one would expect the respondents to be tourists. Based on the comments collected during the survey, it appears that the respondents were largely locals.

“That said, Cape Town’s city centre is a vibrant space that cuts across class and colour barriers.

“The City has invested a lot of time, energy and funding into the CBD and surrounds and continues to invest in it. We already have a very extensive CCTV network in the CBD that is monitored 24-hours a day by the Metro Police Strategic Surveillance Unit.

“All of the City’s enforcement services play a role in safeguarding the CBD, and we have even adopted a ‘rent-a-cop’ scheme that businesses can tap into to ensure a sustained, dedicated enforcement presence. The City has staff members contracted to the Central City Improvement District on a 24-hour basis. We have also established a dedicated Law Enforcement presence on the Grand Parade and these officers have daily successes in terms of arrests and confiscation of contraband, etc.

“It must be noted that the City’s enforcement resources are stretched as a result of the demand for service delivery across the metropole. Policing and other City services are needed everywhere and can’t be concentrated in the CBD alone.

“Furthermore, the survey speaks very broadly about law enforcement and so the South African Police Service should be approached too.”

He said in terms of street people and aggressive begging as well as other antisocial behaviour, Law Enforcement and Social Development teams are on the streets daily offering assistance and enforcing by-law transgressions.

“We have just launched our first Safe Space pilot project for street people, with a view to addressing the anti-social and lawbreaking behaviour that comes with living on the street, but also to offer more sustainable options for those who want to get off the street.”

Marina Zeitzman of Cape Town Free Walking Tours took a different view from the company which had stopped tours in the CBD.

She said the walking tours were the bread and butter of tour guides,
and that while the city has a few
issues, conditions were not deteriorating.

“The City Central Improvement District is very visible, present and helpful, and spaces are cleaner than years before. Like a lot of major cities, there is vagrancy and begging, but we don’t want to close down for it.

“We still visit all the tourist spots and it is relatively safe.”