By Stella Mapenzauswa
JOHANNESBURG,- South Africa’s tourism industry is likely to take a hit following a wave of xenophobic attacks this month, a setback for the country which has worked hard to clean up its image as a hub for violent crime.
Seven people have been killed in the attacks, which mostly targeted African immigrants. Police and soldiers have brought the unrest under control but the damage may already have been done for the tourism sector, which supports one in 12 jobs.
Unemployment — officially running at 25 percent, but which economists say is much higher — is one factor blamed for the attacks on foreigners.
The successful hosting of the 2010 World Cup helped improve South Africa’s reputation for violence but graphic images of armed gangs attacking immigrants and looting foreign-owned shops have revived fears that may put off potential visitors.
“(The attacks) are damaging to the brand that we are marketing, damaging to the reputation of the country,” said Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism.