I’m never given to pessimism or not being up to a challenge, but I have to say there’s a bit of a (excuse the pun) ‘spring’ in my step as we welcome a spring that follows a long difficult winter for travel and tourism in general.
None of us are so impervious to hardships that we can say these past few months have not been a very difficult time. Now that we’re in level 2 of the lockdown, however, there has been just enough of an opening up of things to give us all renewed hope of a resurgence of tourism – and just in time for summer vacations.
A collective sigh of relief
It’s as though spring has magically turned the soil, burying the initial panic of the emergence of the virus, to plant a seed that will yield a collective sigh of relief when it’s finally all over. There is a new sense of freedom and the public have responded magnificently to the appeal to support the local tourism industry.
Bush lodges are full already for much of the season, not to mention many local hotels offering ‘staycations’ – and tourism havens throughout the country are thankfully reporting a massive surge of bookings for the summer to come.
Certainly, it’s not all over yet though and we need to tread cautiously and still fully masked as we venture out of our comfort zone to face the world again. A resurgence of the virus would be the last thing we need if our recovery is to continue its momentum!
Bleisure is the new pleasure of the business world
With smaller live conferences and other business events being encouraged it is a beginning, even if a somewhat limited one, for business travel too. Smaller airports offering access to leisure centres and a slow trickling re-emergence of the smaller airlines will encourage business conference getaways too.
The Oak and the palm tree
As for Travel Professionals, let me just say this is not a time to hope that we can simply slip back into the usual ways of business in the travel industry. We need to be entrepreneurial, constantly thinking outside the box, and adapting to the current situation to provide the best travel solutions for the current climate and within its restrictions. Flexibility is the key.
When a major storm hits even the solid oak with its deep roots (One might say Thomas Cook was an example) can be uprooted, but the palm with its supple trunk and ability to bend to the ground will survive even the strongest winds!
Most importantly, see this as a time to rally and initiate new beginnings. Use this spring as a time to plant new seeds and bury the recent past. Certainly, we must not forget the lessons of this ordeal, but we cannot let the pandemic sow the kind of fear that ultimately takes root in our hearts.
Michelle Obama, every bit as inspirational as her famous husband, said: “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” The most important thing is to keep moving forward positively – and if we do that, then by the time we celebrate our Heritage day we will, as a nation, be marching together again towards a brighter future.
Stay positive – and stay safe – but don’t stay home – get out and enjoy this beautiful country of ours – South Africa awaits you! LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER