I’ve said it many times before, I’m unashamedly a “glass half full” person, to the point that I get quite irritated with those who say “Oh it’s just another year” or “It will be the same old, same old”. Why not embrace the chance to use hindsight for foresight, examine the previous year’s failings and triumphs and determine what we can do to make the next a better, more positive one? How boring would it be if every race that was run had no finish and we never got the chance to start a fresh race from crack of the pistol at the starting line?
To make my point, I would like to tell you about a few amazing experiences I had in my travels towards the end of last year and I believe it will prove that we can make a difference to our own travel and tourism offerings in South Africa, in 2024, if we too can begin to implement some of the incredible technologies and mirror the kind of responsible tourism I encountered on my travels.
In several of my articles last year I wrote about the cutting-edge technological advances taking place in the travel and tourism industries, particularly concerning streamlining the check-in procedures at airports. I was thrilled to see on this trip that much of this technology has now been implemented and come to the fore. This also means, however, that you as a traveller need to be comfortable to take advantage of these options. One example is that Schiphol in Amsterdam have upgraded their security and, as far as I could tell, is now using the upgraded hand luggage scanners throughout their airport. What a pleasure not having to unpack all your knick-knacks to clear security!
The airline I flew on allowed for an opt-in function to continue engagement with them via WhatsApp or FB messenger, for the remainder of my various trips following my first online check-in. I no longer had to fret about finding booking code, all my traveller information was retained, so I didn’t have to recapture passport information when checking in again for subsequent flights (as sometimes happens on other carriers). Even more importantly, one is spared from needing to have multiple app on one’s phone in order to engage – it was quick and easy.
An event to remember!
Celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh was incredibly special and fortunately the weather co-operated. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be at the home of Hogmanay on the day of the event? The way it was run, however, is what struck me and reminded me that it doesn’t matter where in the world you are based, tourism, undertaken responsibly, is such a significant revenue generator not only to the hospitality industry but to all other services and stores. From the event management company that arranged the festival, sound engineers, lighting engineers, the pyrotechnic specialists managing the fireworks, the stagehands and the performers, all were fully committed to ensuring the event’s success – and remember these are all industries that were amongst the hardest hit during the COVID pandemic but which have now bounced back so admirably.
The starting gun has fired
Yes, we are on the threshold of a brand new year and the starting gun has fired. Let’s stop looking back to merely surpassing pre-COVID figures and accept that if we too can embrace technology and practice responsible, creative tourism, we can do so much more in 2024. I was thrilled to see what a bumper tourist season we recently experienced and even happier that there were so many good reports of how well we as a tourism industry handled the influx of travellers, so let’s build on this and aim for bigger and better things in the days to come. Watch this space where I will be making many suggestions of how we can continue to grow this industry that is so vital to the economic well-being of our country, because I simply don’t believe in “Same old, same old” – only “What’s new out there? – and how can we make it work for us?”.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER