JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, is home to 3.2 million people, which represents seven per cent of South Africa’s total population. The city’s reputation for crime is its “worse export” and it can ill afford the recent wave of xenophobic violence sweeping the country, according to chief executive of the Johannesburg Tourism Company, Lindiwe Mahlangu.
“We will sustain a position of ‘business as usual’ and we are communicating with international agencies and business centres, assuring them that the incidences are isolated and contained within a few areas of our city and advising on measures to ensure visitors' safety,” she said recently.
The city had made concerted efforts to enhance its position as a global destination for business and tourism, and as a home for foreign citizens. “All law-abiding people are welcome in our city as they have a role to play in our progress and prosperity, and ultimately improve on their own quality of life,” said Mahlangu.
Johannesburg plays host to millions of visitors annually and the JTC manages this process through extensive cooperation with all relevant safety and security authorities.
“Visitors to our popular tourist attractions, venues, exhibitions, cultural and sporting events, and conference facilities should be assured that we condemn the current events and support all efforts aimed at bringing an end to the temporary conflict, says Mahlangu.
Robin Binckes of Spear of the Nation, who offers private history based tour experiences embellished with story telling, passes on to visitors unique aspects of Johannesburg’s past and present life.
He says, “Johannesburg’s reputation for crime is probably our worst export! Just like any other major city there are good and bad areas. Of course it is always impossible to guarantee here (or anywhere for that matter) - if visitors are sensible and aware and take advice from people who are qualified to give it rather than listening to those who might exaggerate they should have a safe and wonderful holiday.”
He said that he continued to do day tours into Alexandra Township, scene of the start of the recent violence, because it was and is, still safe on a normal day.
“Also if someone is familiar with their surroundings, knows where they are going and probably more importantly, is known in the area, that person is less likely to attract the wrong kind of attention,” said Binckes.
The JTC company launched a glossy magazine called So Joburg at Indaba 2008 in Durban in May, and it features the best of Johannesburg’s lifestyle - people, fashion, property, restaurants, events, hotels and business.
It was designed to attract both locals and visitors to a destination as “the more they know about a place, the more alluring it becomes. In the same vein once they arrive at a destination, they are likely to stay longer if they know what to see, what to do, and where to go; this is the role of “So Joburg” - encouraging residents and visitors alike to ‘do the town',” says Mahlangu.
The bi-monthly magazine will be distributed free at shopping malls, hotels and airline lounges and select South African Embassies from July 2008.