Tourism safety has been high on the agenda in South Africa over the last couple of months. Kruger Lowveld Tourism (KLT) has developed a unique programme using volunteers to provide victim support to tourists in distress. This is being done in full cooperation of the SA Police Service.
The volunteers step in and do what family or friends would have done in a time of crisis if they were available – whether the trauma is from an accident, illness or injury, death of a loved one, or a criminal incident. Volunteers are available in every town in the Kruger Lowveld region. Police at each station has been fully briefed and supplied with the contact details of local volunteers.
The volunteers’ role is not only to offer comfort to the victims and assist them in making their statements to the police but also to provide practical assistance. This could involve making arrangements as necessary for alternative accommodation, further travel, lost credit cards and travel documents or taking them to a doctor. They also make sure that the visitor’s basic needs are met – for example providing some money, a cell phone, toiletries and clothing. KLT and MTPA cover the basic costs and refund the volunteers’ out of pocket expenses.
During January volunteers received an extensive briefing at one of four workshops held at different locations in the region. The content of the training was largely based on the experiences of those who had provided victim support in the past. The volunteers were also provided with contact details of fellow volunteers, police officials and emergency services in every town, professional trauma counsellors, and translators.
Other provinces have already taken note of this unique KLT initiative are considering a similar programme in their region.
An unpleasant incident can derail a journey in any part of the world. However, the visitor’s experiences after the fact can make a huge difference to whether they’ll come back and what they’ll tell their friends about our region as a tourist destination. Since the victim support initiative was launched several visitors have continued with their holiday rather than flying home straight away.
If you come across an incident which has left a tourist traumatised contact the SAPS immediately. You can also set the victim support in motion by contacting a local volunteer, if you know who they are, or otherwise contact one of the regional support team from KLT. They are Tom Vorster (084 570 0348), Lisa Sheard (082 834 5687) or Linda Grimbeek (082 834 5687).