Problem of registration of vehicles of tour operators detrimental to tourism and the economy

The Department of Tourism has returned responsibility to the Department of Transport for problems experienced by tour operators in renewing or obtaining new passenger vehicle operating licenses from the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR).

While Seapei Lebele, Acting Chief Director of Communications at the Ministry of Tourism, acknowledged that the issue is a serious challenge which is negatively impacting the tourism sector, she denied that the sector has not received help from the ministry.

Read: Government ignores appeal for help from tourism industry

“The department has had a number of engagements with the Department of Transport and with the industry generally, on the challenges of the NPTR,” she said.

“The department regularly engages departments, whose mandates impact tourism, on various issues with the ultimate goal of supporting the growth of the sector and its contribution to the economy.”

Moneyweb emailed a list of questions to the Department of Transportation on June 22, but has yet to receive a response.

Operators “prevented” from obtaining licenses

The SA Tourism Services Association (Satsa) claimed last month that the NPTR was preventing tour operators from renewing or obtaining new tourist vehicle operating licenses.

He said it was negatively impacting hundreds of tour operator vehicles and causing serious economic and reputational damage to the tourism industry, in addition to inhibiting growth and job creation in small, medium-sized businesses. and large enterprises (SMEs).

Satsa further claimed that there was a promise to cancel the issuance of route descriptions/radius of operation for tour operators because it is not suitable for tour operator vehicles, but as of now this does not happen. is not produced.

He said that promise was repeated and recorded in the minutes of a meeting between the tourism and transport departments, the NPTR and Satsa in September 2017.

And that it was agreed again in December 2018 at a meeting between Director General of Tourism Victor Tharage, Acting Director General of Transport Chris Hlabisa, the Tourism Business Council and Satsa.

However, Lebele said the meetings mentioned by Satsa contradict the claim that “nothing was done”.

They are an example of the Ministry of Tourism stepping in to facilitate direct engagement between Satsa and the Ministry of Transport, she said.

Where does the responsibility stop?

Lebele pointed out that while the Ministry of Tourism facilitates engagements to ensure that concerns are discussed in detail and perspectives are understood from both sides, the mandate of tour operator licensing “is outside the Ministry of Tourism”.

“The Ministry of Tourism cannot indeed ‘implement’ another department’s mandate, although we have – and always have – assisted the relevant department to understand the perspective of tourism as appropriate and to motivate the needs of tourism to be considered in their policies and processes,” she said.

Lebele said both short-term and long-term solutions were identified during engagements with the Department of Transport.

“One of the long-term problems [is] changing some aspects of the legislation, which the Department of Transport is best placed to elaborate on,” she said.

Last month, Satsa also claimed that tourism chief Tharage had done nothing for five years to try to resolve the problems tour operators had with the regulator.

Lebele pointed out that Tharage has maintained focus on the challenges of the NPTR and used various approaches to address them, including the National Tourism Stakeholder Forum (NTSF), which he – Tharage – personally chairs.

Ten commitments

She added that since the emergence of challenges with the implementation of the NPTR, the Ministry of Tourism has stepped in and provided a list of 10 engagements it had between November 2018 and September 2020 to try to resolve the issues. .

These included:

  • December 5, 2018: A meeting between the Departments of Tourism and Transportation where Deputy Ministers of both Departments and Heads of Tourism were briefed and a discussion took place on the challenges of the NPTR process, including the processing backlog.

  • December 10, 2018: A follow-up meeting between the Departments of Tourism and Transport in which the Deputy Minister of Transport, NPTR and tourism officials took part in a detailed discussion on dealing with the backlog, was held. conducted a site visit to the NPTR offices and engaged with the entire NPTR team on tourism concerns.

  • December 10, 2019: The Director General of Tourism sent a letter to the Director General of Transport proposing an amnesty for tourist licenses and requesting an update on the appointment of the new NPTR.

The Ministry of Tourism said the results of these interventions included:

  • Recognition by the Ministry of Transport of the existence of challenges.

  • Improved common understanding of the needs of the tourism sector through NPTR Board engagements.

  • Facilitating assistance to individual tour operators who submitted their queries after attending NPTR Board sessions in various provinces.

  • The Ministry of Transport issued on December 20, 2020 an extension until August 31, 2021 of the validity period of tourism operating licenses and accreditation certificates that had expired during the period from March 26, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

‘Inconceivable’

Satsa Vice President Oupa Pilane said on Tuesday that the Ministry of Tourism, as a line department of Satsa, should understand the seriousness and importance of solving this problem more than any other department.

“It is inconceivable that the issue has been on the ministry’s agenda for five years and is still unresolved.

“We expect the Ministry of Tourism to be at the center of finding solutions to this problem and not just facilitating meetings, [which] is something we can do ourselves,” Pilane said.

“As members of government, they cannot absolve themselves of the systematic failures of their sister department, frustrating as the situation may be,” he said.

Pilane pointed out that the problems experienced by tour operators with the NPTR are not simply a concern for Satsa and its members, but have a direct impact on the whole tourism sector, in particular the young and emerging tourism entrepreneurs who are doing all their possible to survive and create jobs.

“More than that, it undermines the ability of the entire industry to represent the best our country has to offer tourists.

“We as Satsa cannot rest until this matter is resolved,” he said.