We are thankful we had the opportunity to meet National Minister of Tourism of South Africa Mr Derek Hanekom, in Pretoria on the 7th of August 2015.
We started by explaining our background from the drowning of our brother and son Bavo Verheyden in 2011. The Minister wanted to find out how the accident happened and he also testified on his experience when swimming in the ocean. He was also once confronted with the strong currents and testified he was lucky to escape from a dangerous situation.
We continued the meeting with referring to the existing framework of responsible tourism, with the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and with the White Paper on Development and Promotion of Tourism in South Africa, and one of its principles, which is responsibility to visitors through ensuring their safety, security and health. We added that, according to WTO, planning for safety and security should also address physical or environmental risks, which manifest if
"- travellers are unaware of the natural characteristics of the destination and their effects, in particular of its flora and fauna,
- travellers are exposed to emergencies arising from the physical environment due to the traveller's ignorance or passive approach to potential risks."
We gave a few suggestions for interventions that could be taken up by the department of Tourism. For example our suggestion to review the grading system that is used by the Tourism Grading Council of SA, by integrating a safety element to the reviewing system, was warmly welcomed.
We encouraged the use of leaflets, signs and flags, guidebooks in touristic centers and accommodations, and information videos, which have proved to be efficient tools to prompt beachgoers to a safer behavior at the seaside. The Secretary of the Minister supported the distribution of the leaflets we developed ("you want to go into the ocean? take care!"), which we handed over to her. She suggested to give them to the provincial departments to make available in the tourism offices.