Major tour operators hope that a new National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) board – due for a change of guard next month – will recognise that the regulation body is not compliant with the National Land Transport Act (NLTA).

Operations Director at Drifters Adventours, Steve Maidment, said the NPTR was applying the same principles of regulation of competition used in the taxi industry. “This is completely inappropriate, and separating tourism transport from other public transport was the main reason for promulgating the NLTA, in terms of which the NPTR was established in the first place,” he said.

According to Maidment, the NLTA was the result of a long consultation – of almost a decade – between the tourism industry and government and was meant to solve these problems.

“Or competition is tourism destinations around the world. None of us are touting at the airports – our clients have paid for the trip before they step on the plane. The NPTR does not seem to understand this,” he commented.

“I wish the NPTR would simply apply the provisions of the NLTA, recognise accredited operators, and issue permits within 24 hours, as specified in Reg 38,” said Maidment. 

Like most tour operators, Tourvest Destination Management (TDM) has also experienced frustration with the NPTR and is also affected by the lack of communication and support.

The company has, on two occasions, experienced unpleasant situations where drivers have been pulled off the road and the vehicles were impounded with international tourists on board, this was despite having all the correct documentation as well as proof that they had applied for the new permits.

An operator told Tourism Update that, aside from it being extremely embarrassing, having vehicles impounded with clients on board could result in refund requests from these clients and possible cancellations from agents hearing about these challenges.

TDM Operations Supervisor, Adrian Ruthenberg, pointed out that, should a vehicle be pulled over and it was deemed necessary for the vehicle to be impounded, the traffic officer needed to allow the driver/guide to get the passengers to their destination first, before impounding the vehicle.

“This came directly from Kenny Afrika, Head of Traffic Services in the Western Cape, as mentioned late last week at the Western Cape Tour Operators Crisis Meeting,” added Ruthenberg.

TDM is an accredited tour operator and the commitment from the NPTR was that as soon as a company was accredited, adding vehicles to a fleet would be done within 24 hours.

The company recently added four new vehicles to its fleet and was shocked to find out that it would have to apply for permits from scratch and that the accreditation would not help at all.

After going through the whole process and submitting all the relevant documentation by mid-August, the company received acknowledgement of the submission on August 27, but that is where the communication stopped.

Despite numerous phone calls and emails, Tourvest Destination Management has been unable to get an update on the status of these permits.