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Travel to South Africa

With the upcoming IFORS meeting in Sandton, South Africa, it was disheartening to see the recent violence in South Africa.  Of course, the violence against “foreigners” was not against tourists:  it was against Zimbabweans and other non-South Africans living in the townships.  Things seem to have calmed down, and here is one recent summary of the situation:

TravelHub (www.travelhub.co.za) – Xenophobia

THERE have been no further incidents of xenophobic violence reported since Sunday, May 25. South Africa is now in the process of dealing with the aftermath of the violence, notably the humanitarian crisis that has developed due to the thousands of displaced immigrants being housed in camps across the country. These people lack basic necessities such as food, blankets, toiletries and clothes. Recent reports confirm that violence between those displaced has broken out in some of these camps. Government is expected to announce its plan of action for dealing with the crisis later today (May 29).

The other major problem, which is affecting tourism, is the country’s image. Despite the calm of the last few days, countries are continuing to issue travel warnings for their citizens who plan to visit South Africa. No alerts have told travellers to avoid South Africa completely but a number of countries, including the United States, have issued warnings against travel to township areas. Yesterday Australians were told to avoid township tourism, and the general advice for visiting South Africa remained the same: exercise a high level of caution.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a similar warning yesterday, advising travellers to avoid Gauteng townships.

The warnings acknowledge that tourists are not the targets of the recent violence, but point out that they might be caught up in surrounding violence, should it flare up again. This poses a major problem for companies involved in township tourism, who are trying to carry on business as usual and convince tourists that the townships are safe. Townships in the Eastern Cape, which had no reported incidents of xenophobic violence, Orlando West in Soweto and others that have been calm over recent weeks, should be safe to visit but it will take months, if not years, before the horrific images of the violence broadcast internationally will fade and tourists will again readily head to South Africa’s townships.

I am very much looking forward to both the conference and the side activities I have planned in South Africa.  I have even bought a new camera (DSLR: Canon EOS) with a big (300mm) lens for the safari part of my visit. I hope to see many of you there!