South Africa's tourism efforts undermined by crime

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The Independent Online

Politicians and tourism officials took to the beach in the upmarket suburb of Camp's Bay Tuesday, welcoming visitors with free caps and T-shirts in an effort to boost tourism which is threatened by the nation's high crime rate.

Politicians and tourism officials took to the beach in the upmarket suburb of Camp's Bay Tuesday, welcoming visitors with free caps and T-shirts in an effort to boost tourism which is threatened by the nation's high crime rate.

Across the road on Nov. 28, a bomb had ripped through the St. Elmo's pizzeria, injuring 48 people, and putting a dent in Cape Town's efforts to market itself internationally.

Crime has consistently undermined government efforts to build up the tourism industry, which it sees as a way to dramatically lower the country's 33 percent unemployment rate.

The number of international tourists visiting South Africa has grown 36 percent since 1994 when apartheid ended to 5.7 million last year.

But Tourism Minister Valli Moosa, who was on the beach Tuesday, said the country had not even begun to scratch the potential of the lucrative industry, attracting just 0.2 percent of the 500 million tourists who travel abroad each year.

Cape Town is one of the country's major tourist drawcards and officials have been working hard to restore the city's image as a paradise with perfect beaches, picturesque wineries and an unspoiled mountain reserve.

Since the beginning of December, about 400,000 people - one quarter of them from abroad - have visited the city.

Flights into Cape Town are full, the roads are jammed with cars and restaurants are doing a roaring trade.

Tourist numbers are about 10 percent up on last year, but not quite what local businesses were hoping for.

Cheryl Orzinsky, spokeswoman for Cape Town Tourism, said hopes that millennium celebrations would translate into a bumper season had simply not materialized - not only in South Africa, but around the world - with many people preferring to stay at home with their families.

The fear of millennium computer problems also prompted companies to ask their executives to stay within easy reach.

Provincial premier Gerald Morkel said while he could not guarantee tourists' safety, no effort was being spared to make the city as crime-free as possible.

One business which will not be benefitting from the millennium holiday season is the St. Elmo's restaurant in Camps Bay. Its refurbishment has not been completed in time, and its widows are covered in posters advertising a comedy night to benefit the victims of the bombing.

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