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A new survey by UCT has found that 73 percent of international tourists on township tours felt safe, although township tourism peaked during the World Cup – reports KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

Tourism in townships may be given a boost after a University of Cape Town survey found that seven-in-10 tourists felt safe on township tours, which had also reversed some of their negative perceptions.

Township tourism peaked during the 2010 World Cup. But the international perception of violence and crime was further cemented by the murder of Anni Dewani in November 2010, and more recently, by mob-justice killings, particularly in the Western Cape.
However, the survey by Dr Richard George, convener of UCT’s Tourism and Events Management Course, and two students, Michael Kramer and Constandino Vichos, has shed some light on the image of township tourism.
The study, which ran between June and August, surveyed 317 tourists from 23 countries and involved 44 township tour operators. The results seem to indicate that township tourism is growing steadily.

Seventy-three percent of tourists felt safe on a township tour; eight percent said they felt unsafe; and 19 percent were neutral. Eighty-three percent would recommend a township tour to others and 41 percent said they would be willing to spend a night in a township.
George said the results were especially positive considering 65 percent said they had been warned about crime in the townships beforehand.
“This groundbreaking study should help grow the township as a tourism sector, as it provides a fresh perspective on how tourists experience and perceive the warmth of Western Cape townships.”
He said new data coming from the World Cup 2014 in Brazil could shed more light on growing the township market. “The favelas in Brazil are very similar in nature and notoriety to the townships of South Africa. Boutique hotels in the favelas have proven very popular among tourists and if we can use a similar approach here, we can boost tourism in the townships even further.”
He hoped the survey would change the perceptions of tourists and encourage locals to visit the townships.
Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, said the survey had proved the increasing popularity of township tourism.
“This is a reasonable result as the perception about crime is a common concern by international tourists to South Africa in general – not only the townships.
“Communities are also aware of the benefits of hosting township tours, as seen during the World Cup, and they do their best to ensure tourists are generally kept safe.”
Pascoe encouraged tourists to be responsible and be aware of local customs, behaviour and safety issues as well as to enjoy some cultural experiences on their trip. –

Article by KOWTHAR SOLOMONS first apeared in the Weekend Argus