I’m not usually one to harp on the same issues, but I do feel it necessary to continue along the path of my last missive, where I expressed the importance of vaccinations and the critical roles Travel Advisors will play in the future. I believe that these will be pivotal in the attitudes of people towards travel in the future and the extent of the revival of travel as we once knew it. I have, since writing my last article, seen a couple of rather revealing poles where people were asked about what they deemed to be important travel safety issues going forward. The company conducting the poles asked various questions which in essence came down to one critical one “what kind of traveller are you?’’ This got me wondering how different most people’s answers would have been two years ago, so I believe the more relevant question is ‘’What kind of traveller have you become?’’
There were two poles in particular that, for me, spoke volumes about what the pandemic has done to change the way most people think about travel, now and going forward. The first asked the question “What action do you believe would most support trust in travel?” Those who gave obvious answers like supplier safety and health support took a back seat to the overwhelming 72% who voted for “a universal vaccine rollout!”
In a way, I was heartened to see this because it means there is a definite answer in people’s minds as to what would make them feel like less anxious travellers. In South Africa, we have a very high vaccination culture, as most of us are vaccinated from birth against diseases common to our country, and despite what might have been a slow uptake and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, we do have a sophisticated mechanism to distribute and administer them. In fairness to the Government, they did say they would start slowly and then speed up and this seems to be the case.
I am also heartened to see the great response to the over 35 to 49 years of age registrations and many employees in my own business that are wearing their vaccines with pride, like a badge of achievement. Being vaccinated gives us hope and I can only again express my wish that as many South Africans as possible do get the vaccine so we can ease the minds of all those travellers who see this as a solution going forward.
Anxious travellers will look to Travel Advisors and technology for support
To reiterate this point from my last article and lend some credence to it, the second poll I read specifically asked the question “what kind of business traveller are you?” It is not even worth mentioning the other answers, as an overwhelming 87% said they were anxious and nervous! Once again I realised that this is the giant that those in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries will need to face and the significant role of Travel Advisors will be to offer accurate advice and a clear picture of what the traveller might encounter.
Anxious business travellers can be assured by emerging technology which is greatly going to assist TAs to make travel as seamless as possible. In the beginning; people were just worried about travelling with masks and they had to wait days for a PCR test, but now they can have it in one day or even a few hours. A fantastic digital pass is already being rolled out in Europe which has all your vaccine information. Hopefully, Africa will shortly follow suit, but we need to ensure that there will be stations in neighbouring countries that will be able to read such a card so that we in South Africa can eliminate the need for the numerous cards and passes we currently need to carry.
Accept change and seek support
In the meantime, all travellers should accept that some things have changed and they simply need to plan their trips differently. You will need to make more time and expect to be inconvenienced in certain ways and again this is where your Travel Advisor’s advice is so important. Also, realise that the vaccine roll-out that will make you feel so much safer is happening. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at least we do have a solution, and after the length of time we have endured this insufferable pandemic, we can endure it – This too shall pass.
I for one, can’t wait to wear my “I have been vaccinated” badge proudly. I also have total trust in the incredibly resilient, determined people in the travel industry that are working so hard to restore a travel experience that certainly may be different, but will be as professional and pleasurable as it ever was. Be safe – and remember the immortal words of Franklin D. Roosevelt – “you have nothing to fear but fear itself!”LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER