By now everyone has pretty much had enough of being on “lock-down” – through its different stages and varying rules and restrictions in each country. Here in South Africa we started out with five weeks of heavy lock-down, stricter than most countries experienced – unless we were an essential worker we had to remain in our homes and could only venture out if we needed to buy groceries or get medical supplies or attention. We were not even allowed outdoors to exercise or walk our dogs and the sale of liquor and tobacco products were banned. We then moved down a lock-down level and for a month were allowed to exercise only between 6 and 9 in the mornings, liquor and alcohol remained banned and we had a strict curfew, but some aspects of the economy were opened up again under certain conditions. We now find ourselves in “Level 3” where we have no time restrictions to outdoor exercise, no curfews, alcohol sales have resumed (still no tobacco sales however) and most businesses are able to operate again. But still no travel – borders remain closed and movements between provinces are limited to business travel and travel to attend funerals only.
Most of us have tried to simplify our lives, help those around us in far worse off circumstances and marvelled at how the natural environment has flourished with less human interference. The number of home work-out online sessions and videos that regularly pop up on social media are a clear indication that people have tried to use the time to improve or maintain their fitness; we saw marathons run in gardens and even on balconies! On the other hand many are complaining about their new “covid-bellies” and expressing nerves about fitting into jeans after spending so long in comfy clothing!! This is likely a consequence of all the experimental cooking and baking that has also been a regular feature in most locked down homes! We’re all pretty much “zoomed out” – it’s how we’ve kept in contact with friends and family, hosting games, quiz and even cheese and wine tasting evenings! Zoom is also how most of us have kept up with our teams, planning, strategising and upskilling ourselves and our partners with destination and product training sessions.
Through all of this we have also reminisced on our past travels with new appreciation and have dreamed of travelling one day again, hopefully in the not too distant future.
What do we believe travel will look like post COVID-19?
Our future business opportunities are uncertain, but we can say for sure that it will not be “business as usual” post Covid-19 and we need to look and plan towards the “next/new normal”. There has never previously been a time when global tourism has come to a complete standstill as it has during Covid-19, but it has given us an opportunity to rethink about travel and reset our business priorities.
Safety and health assurances will be top of mind for the foreseeable feature and all suppliers in the tourism industry, be it accommodation, restaurants, transport or activity providers, are putting plans in place and implementing Covid-19 protocols to reassure visitors. Just as travel changed remarkably post-911, post-covid-19 travel is going to come with its own new inconveniences that travellers will have to get used to – longer check-in and waiting times for one. We can only hope that these effects could lessen if or when a vaccine is developed.
We believe that people will have a longing and new appreciation for nature and the outdoors – space and clean air, opportunities to be active and take part in new, fun and exciting activities. Itineraries need to be less prescriptive and rather more flexible with a variety of options to each day, with new and different ways of doing the previous standard day tours. People will want to spend this travel time with their loved ones – some of who they were cooped up with on lock-down and others they were unable to see for a while because of lock-down.
How have we started to prepare for this?
Our passion and knowledge of our country South Africa and the Southern Africa region is boundless, we want to tell about and share everything with everyone! We want people to see and experience those lesser known regions which have amazing things on offer – for example the natural wonders of Northern Cape and the vibrant cultures of Limpopo. Realistically we know however that most of the trips we plan for our clients are first time visitors and this means they want to see the highlights of the country that are known – this usually includes, for all our varied markets in which we work, Cape Town, the Garden Route and often a safari included.
So we have developed a range of different 14-day Cape and Garden Route options to appeal to our different markets. We find with our Danish clients there is a preference for accommodation that is central and within safe walking distance of attractions and dining options, our German and Dutch clients on the other hand often prefer smaller owner run guest houses which offer a personal touch and they also place higher emphasis on responsible travel. Our UK clients enjoy smaller boutique establishments and our Indian clients favour the larger more main stream hotels and rooms that offer triple sharing are almost a must. Most of our European clients enjoy the freedom and flexibility of a self-drive tour, whereas our Indian clients prefer a hassle-free private guided tour with a driver-guide to look after them and are very adventurous travellers who often like to include a sky dive, shark cage dive and bungee jump for example in their itineraries.
We think that a glamping trip will be an ideal post-Covid-19 holiday, so we have also put together a 14-day Cape and Garden Route glamping trip. Glamping offers a fantastic camping alternative without the hassle of having to pack and carry camping equipment, transport a caravan or worrying about bugs and shared ablutions – transforming camping into a luxury experience.
Another factor that is very close to our heart and the ethos of our company is responsible travel. In all we do we try to keep the three pillars of sustainable travel in mind – what are we doing to help protect the natural environment, how are we ensuring that local communities are benefitting from tourism and that cultures are being shared in an authentic and experiential way and not eroded or exploited.
Something simple that we as a company do is support as much as possible accommodation and activities in South Africa that are Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) accredited. FTT is a non-profit organisation which supports sustainable tourism development through the award of a certificate to companies that commit themselves to the Fair Trade criteria of fair wages, fair working conditions, just profit sharing and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. This assures visitors that the people whose land, natural resources, labour, knowledge and culture are used to support the tourism activities they are enjoying are actually benefiting fairly from them. We have thus also designed a 14-day Fair Trade Highlights of the Cape package which is 100% FTT.
In executing our packages we have always tried to support other small tourism businesses, who have taken a massive knock during Covid-19 and will be needing our support more than ever when travel opens again.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s National Freedom Day message on 27 April included these hard-hitting words: “Some people have been able to endure the coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children. For millions of others, this has been a month of misery, of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry.” So we all have to ask ourselves what MORE can we possibly do and how can we assist those who have been poorly affected to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, at the same time trying to get back on our own feet!
South Africa’s tourism industry has hit back at recent predictions that international tourism will not restart before 2021, claiming that the country’s actual date of reopening is likely to be much sooner. After a briefing from South Africa’s Department of Tourism on May 27, it was reported that international tourism wouldn’t be possible until February 2021. These statements caused widespread panic within South Africa’s travel industry, which relies heavily on international visitors.
However, according to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) – an umbrella organisation representing South Africa’s voice of business in the travel and tourism sector, the release of these predictions were premature. South Africa’s ‘Risk-Adjusted’ reopening strategy is based on levels of infections, not exact dates, so the timeline spoken of in parliament is a worst-case scenario and ‘purely speculative’, the body emphasised. The full article was published by The Telegraph news website.
The Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) says they hope that the recovery plan strategy presented to Parliament this week will allow for an accelerated phased opening of the industry. TBCSA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, says that they are following the risk adjusted strategy based on levels of lockdown, not dates. With the Peak summer tourism season fast approaching from an inbound perspective, the focus is the importance of tourism to South Africa in the fourth quarter and the value of the forward book.