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Lets-open-our-hearts,-minds,-arms-and-country-to-international-travellers-this-year!

Let’s open our hearts, minds, arms and country to international travellers this year!

We are said to be heading for a bumper tourist season in 2023 and this is fabulous news for travel and tourism and consequently for the country as a whole. And yet I can hear some cries in my head of local residents (particularly those in tourist hot spots) saying “’Oh no it’s tourist season again – there goes our peace and quiet!’’ Well, to be honest, I can almost sympathise with them now after the gloriously peaceful time that we experienced shortly after the hard lockdown of the pandemic and locals could travel to local areas almost unhindered and in relative peace and quiet.

It was nice, just for a little while, to enjoy the great special offers and the extra attention we received from local hospitality establishments desperate for business after a long dry season. Some of us, for the first time, could afford (and get into) top lodges and hotels and feel like we could holiday in places normally far too busy to really enjoy. Well, that’s all very well but it was no picnic for everyone involved in the tourism industry so now it’s time to consider how important it is to that industry and the country as a whole if we all make every effort to maximise the opportunity we have this year.  

How do we benefit?   

Many people may not realise the amount of damage that was done to both the industry and the country when we were restricted to hosting only local travellers and what a bumper season like the one predicted for this year could mean to all South Africans. So, how can we cash in on this as an industry? – and what do we all need to do as hosts to ensure we continue to grow tourism every year?

To begin with, it gives the Travel and Tourism industry an opportunity to benefit in monetary terms and that allows us to rebuild from the terrible beating we took from the COVID-19 days. Like a Boxer we were beaten to the canvas again and again by a pandemic that seemed to show no mercy and for us to get up and still recover sufficiently to win the fight has taken some doing. We should not forget that many businesses are still feeling the pain of those economic blows. This kind of bumper season allows them to recoup their losses and set back up again to decide what the next best course of action might be. Now they can contemplate how they can improve their offering instead of just trying to offer the bare minimum to survive. 

We should also remember that there is still very much a lack of qualified individuals in the Travel and Tourism industries in SA and boosted funds give us the opportunity to expose some of our younger people to the industry and train them to produce at the top level. We can also offer better salaries to entice some of the qualified people back who left to pursue other more lucrative prospects when they were made redundant. Happy people = better travel and tourism industries – better travel and tourism = a richer country!

What we all need to do

So, we’re convinced that it’s worth the inconvenience and the crowding to improve the country as a whole, but how do we, as ordinary people who may not even be involved in travel or tourism, maximise the opportunity? Well, let’s remember that every citizen of any country that earns a good portion of its income from tourism is an ambassador for the country.

Firstly, remember that good security is vital to ensuring that tourists are safe and every hospitality venue, Airbnb operator, tour operator and yes, every citizen of the country, needs to ensure that visitors know which are “no-go” zones, assist them with apps and available panic button devices (I wrote about new developments in the area recently) and advise them on general security best practice when visiting our beautiful country.

Secondly, as an industry we need to spend that money we are earning from these bumpers seasons to continually strive to offer a better service, better experiences, better food, better venues and, as I mentioned in my last article, to be the world’s number one. Lastly, but certainly not least, if we are known for anything internationally, as a people, it is our warm welcoming smiles and genuine desire to work together as the “Rainbow nation” to make our visitors feel welcome. The peace and quiet may be over during the holiday season but the rewards are rich, so please, once again, let’s open our hearts, minds, arms and our country to international travellers this year!

LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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