As one in a fairly prominent position in the local travel industry, I spend a lot of time evaluating the impact of the pandemic on my businesses. Questions are constantly posed to me regarding the status of both business and leisure travel, and unfortunately, there aren’t any conclusive answers.
The news is always a combination of good and bad. The bad is that we cannot escape the fact that the impact of the pandemic on the industry will probably be felt globally for years to come. The good is that we, as a nation, are not choosing a ‘flight’ but rather a ‘fight’ option in dealing with it.
As it stands right now, I believe it is Bleisure travel, our great spirit of Ubuntu and our proud heritage that will slowly return ‘business as usual’ to our industry.
Business travel still grounded
Although many appeals are being made to Government to get international business travel back on track, I believe this will still be a long process, and we will not see anything like normality until well into next year. Business travel very much rests on what is happening with airlines, and that status is still quite vague.
In discussions with airline partners, they are as perplexed as TMCs are as to when international air travel will open up again, but on the positive side, there is a constant dialogue between all partners.
There is, in fact, demand for international travel, so the willingness to return to normal is there. Still, airlines are restricted, and the only way our airline partners can currently facilitate this is via repatriation flights.
Many airlines have announced their schedules for September, but at least at the time of writing, this is nothing more than speculation. If the infection rates rise after the summer vacations in EU countries, and they start imposing restrictions on one another, it’s anyone’s guess as to when we can expect international commercial flights to start up again.
Bleisure is the measure of local business
As far as local business travel is concerned, like the leisure tourism industry, we are seeing some positive steps and many businesses starting smaller conference getaways and conducting cross-provincial business as before.
Combining business and leisure travel is very popular too, but even with this ‘Bleisure’ travel we haven’t seen an increase in domestic air travel yet, and the preference is still to drive.
Ubuntu and our heritage make us proud
What is excellent news, is that we continue to see a massive demand for domestic getaways and the hospitality industry countrywide have recorded bumper bookings for the upcoming Heritage Day long weekend.
South Africans have responded so positively to the call to support local tourism that it makes me proud to be a citizen of this great country. As we celebrate our diverse cultures on Heritage Day, we can honestly say that throughout this pandemic, we have invoked the spirit of ‘Ubuntu,’ that of oneness and moving forward together as one nation.
I truly believe that it is this that will help not only the travel industry but the country as a whole to take the vital steps we need to rebuild our economy and even more important to preserve our indomitable spirit.
Proceed with caution
We should not, of course, forget that a second wave of the pandemic is a real possibility and we must temper our determination with some caution. It is vital that as a country we strive to rebuild the economy as soon as we can, but let’s continue to meet ‘mask to mask’ for as long as it takes than allow the pandemic to re-emerge.
Step by step, day by day, let’s use the strengths we have. Right now it’s Bleisure, Ubuntu and our heritage that are promoting business as usual in travel – but if we dig deep, we may find more – so keep digging – and keep safe!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER