COVID has nearly crippled tourism worldwide as people were placed in lockdowns and countries restricted local and international travel. As restrictions slowly lifted, SA was further isolated by being placed on some of its key tourism partner countries RED List. When these were lifted, tourism in SA started to ease back.
We are nowhere near 2019 international tourist arrivals due to numerous factors, some beyond our control and others due to what is happening in SA.
The challenges are:
- Visitors are nervous of long haul flights– long to sit on a plane with potential high Covid viral load; visitors testing positive and not able to fly so unsure about refunds or vouchers from the airline, airlines going into liquidation and the visitors losing money on cancelled flights, visitors getting Covid on holiday and needing to suddenly foot the bill for extra accommodation and expense of rescheduled flights, cost of long haul flights has escalated due to the increase in the world’s fuel costs
- Visitors are nervous visiting SA– high unemployment in SA therefore an increase in crime, will they have electricity due to scheduled and unscheduled load shedding, huge escalation in the fuel cost making travelling inside SA expensive, some places overcharging to try and recoup what was lost over the last two years, negative press due to government corruption allegations and an increase in crime statistics, bookings not being upheld due to businesses liquidating
So where do those of us in tourism go from here:
- Focus on what we do have– diverse culture, drop dead gorgeous beaches, majestic mountains, fabulous inexpensive food and wine, wildlife on everyone’s ‘must see’ list, adventure and the great outdoors, warm, sunny climate, friendly multicultural people, exquisite scenery, abundant opportunities, gutsy South Africans etc
- Focus on what we can offer– diversity in experiences whether it be outdoors, food and wine, adventure and nature. We can offer diverse cultural city tours; township tours; adventure tours such as hiking, scuba diving, free diving, mountain biking, abseiling, caving, skydiving, camping, 4×4 etc; botany tours such as West Coast flowers, Richtersveld succulents, fynbos tours, medicinal plant tours; cultural experiences through rural cultural village home stays, cooking tours, music, arts and dance tours, special interest tours – education, birds, reptiles, geology, marine life etc, tailor made tours to suit the client’s needs, ‘local is lekker’ tours etc
- Focus on what we can change– offer affordable accommodation that is clean and well-managed with friendly staff, don’t be afraid to negotiate with establishments on behalf of the tourist; health and safety of the tourist – adhere to correct Covid protocols, avoid potentially dangerous areas, keeping abreast with local news so as to minimise risk, have a Risk Management Plan for each place visited; use safe transport – licensed drivers, safe driving and legal parking, licensed and road worthy vehicles, clean vehicles, safer routes with clean services planned along the way; spread the wealth – use a variety of different accommodations, coach hire, restaurants etc so that more local businesses benefit from tourism especially the new and small businesses that need a lift up; only offer excellence to the tourist – knowledgeable accredited guides, interesting, varied and doable itineraries, clean and comfortable accommodations, legal and safe transport, exceptional wine and food; our attitude – decide to be positive about SA, read more ‘good news’, avoid ‘fake news’, stay away from conspiracy theories, keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle which promotes good mental health, travel locally with your own family to build appreciation for what we do have, keep the bigger picture in mind to avoid focusing on the small hiccups, know the history of the country to get perspective on some present day challenges, talk to different culture groups to hear their views, aim to make friends from different cultures, get out and explore your local area, read autobiographies or biographies of famous South Africans; be full of life and have passion – tourists come to SA on their holidays so make sure they have fun and go back home planning their return trip.