Supporting local tourism is the light at the end of a long dark tunnel

I have touched on this before, but its importance is so great that I thought it necessary to take it a step further and drill down into why supporting local tourism is the light at the end of a long dark tunnel and how we can achieve it.

Certainly, we have heard enough about the havoc that the pandemic has reeked on the travel and tourism industry. It gets tiresome to read about, but we can’t simply paint over a canvass that depicts a bleak, but realistic scenario. I have ceased to even comment on the corporate travel issues as they run deep and will take some time to return to anything like what they were.

As an eternal optimist, however, always up for a challenge and seeking solutions wherever they may be found, I firmly believe that we can rebuild this tourism industry most effectively through wholehearted support of the tourism and hospitality havens that exist right under our noses.

It is not about how far we can travel, or whether we can travel inter provincially or not. The solution lies in supporting affordable getaways as close to home as possible – and letting it grow from there.

Delightful havens lulled into sleep

It is devastating to hear what is happening in some of the smaller towns, formerly delightful local getaways, due to the lack of commercial traffic. Beautiful little villages with markets, coffee shops and rustic overnight accommodations like – trout fishing havens Dullstroom and Clarens, renowned for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate.

In the Cape, there is Darling, home of satirist Pieter Dirk Uys and a premier wine cultivation area. The list goes on and they fill travelogues by the dozens.

A great tragedy in the making

The most prominent of all local attractions, and one of the greatest tragedies, is the demise of the wildlife preservation areas. Poaching has reached alarming proportions as many of the armies of Game Rangers who were the protectors of endangered species like the Rhino have been made redundant.

Some good news we have had in this respect though, is that now that people are beginning to venture out I have seen, through Bushbreaks, that South African’s have so overwhelmed bush lodges with enquiries for August that they’ve  had to notify the public that lodges are now full for August in Gauteng! This is really great news because without this national treasure, we will lose one of our most significant tourism income generators.

A simple solution?

We still have a long way to go though and the solution is not that simple. Do we all hop in our cars tomorrow and go visit somewhere? Well unfortunately not. The public says “we are too cash strapped to pay for getaways.” The hospitality providers say “we can’t afford to be open with so many restrictions without some subsistence” and tour operators say “we can’t survive against seemingly insurmountable odds.”

A four-pronged attack

The real revival of the local tourism industry can only be achieved with the buy-in and enthusiastic support of all the role players and these include:

The Government – who needs to provide whatever available assistance it can muster for the hospitality and tourism industry and for operators whose businesses have suffered. Only with assistance can many operators and hospitality resorts even offer their service and survive this onslaught.

The hospitality industry – who need to stop thinking international tourism prices, streamline operations and offer the public some specials that will make a visit not only more attractive to them but simply affordable!

A good example is local bush lodges who have been offering incredible rates to make it more affordable for our domestic travellers to experience these outstanding getaways – so they should be praised for their efforts.

Tour operators and Travel Managers – who need to be positive, seeking solutions and not throwing their hands in the air when faced with a challenge. Be innovative and be good negotiators between the public and the hospitality resorts. Devise effective packages that work for everyone.

The public – Most importantly, we need the public to enthusiastically support local tourism to whatever extent you can. If the best you can do is take a drive to a nature resort to have a braai and pay a small fee to enter, it supports that ecology and that microscopic part of the whole tourism industry.

Eat the Elephant…

Our beloved Patriarch, the late President Nelson Mandela said “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” No challenge cannot be met – eventually – and with sufficient determination.

It may seem like an inappropriate analogy, but they say an Elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Such is the case here. The solutions may seem inadequate and even very long term, but for those who truly believe that there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel – just keep eating!

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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