Despite South Africa being amidst its third Covid wave, vaccine programmes worldwide are bringing back some sense of security and one of the worst-affected industries, travel and tourism, sees light at the end of the tunnel. But has Covid changed the way we think about travelling? Will we still flock to Venice and brave the crowds or will we try to find more secluded options?
After more than a year of very limited travelling, it was a wonderful privilege to recently visit the Tswalu Game Reserve in the Kalahari. On the website of the reserve’s famous Restaurant Klein Jan that we visited on our trip there, the address is shows as “Between Hotazel and Vanzylsrus, Northern Cape, South Africa“. Finding such luxury and style in such a remote location was very special and at the same time somewhat strange – just another sure sign of our new normal.
For most South Africans, googling from the couch is still the safest way of travelling, and on a recent “trip” I found the Top 50 Best Places to visit Post Pandemic on Forbes.com What a wonderful selection! While some traditional hot spots like Disney World in Florida and popular options like the street food of Taipei still made the list, there is a host of alternative, wonderful suggestions.
Just looking at the A’s in the alphabetical list makes me excited. Rural Alentejo in Portugal, Algeria where Africa meets the Mediterranean, the aurora borealis city, Alta in Norway, the popular Antigua in Guatemala, the natural beauty of Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, forests and wild animals in India’s Assam and how about the historic city Ayutthaya in Thailand. Do these not make you reconsider your travel plans? And there is still a whole alphabet to go!
Other than concerns about our physical wellbeing, what influence will our psychological experience of Covid have on our future travels? Will we be more adventurous when making travel plans? Did Covid make us realise that we only live once and have to experience as much as we can? Will being vaccinated make us feel secure enough to brave crowded airports, attend festivals and street markets and those tourism hotspots on our bucket lists? Will the isolation of the past year encourage us to seek out places where we can meet other cultures?
Or are we forever more careful? Will we steer clear from the masses and find remote locations with plenty of fresh air and very few people? We can definitely see that there is an increased interest and demand for our alfresco offerings at our Franschhoek estates and luckily there are many and diverse outdoor options to enjoy in the Cape Winelands (click here) and in South Africa. We have plenty of wide open spaces, fresh air, some undiscovered gems and remote locations for tourists to explore. This brings opportunity for development and job creation. At the same time, we have the existing offering that made us such a popular tourism destination. Lovely restaurants and hotels, special and unique experiences – all suffering at the moment. For tourism to recover, we need tourists who are brave – some to return to the much-loved spots and some to try the new ones. We need those with a You Only Live Once attitude and we have to provide for those who now, more than before, want to protect all that’s precious about life.
Tourism and travel have some work to do. The industry needs people to feel secure enough to travel. It has to adapt to the new protocols and safety measures. But, with all the challenges come opportunity to rethink, adapt, cooperate and be very creative. Covid has been cruel, but it has done us the favour of exposing cracks and we now have the opportunity to find a more resilient and sustainable tourism model. In South Africa, for instance, we now know to not only focus on the international market, but to extend our offering to the domestic tourists. “There is an urgent need to diversify and strengthen the resilience of the tourism economy, to better prepare for future shocks, to address long standing structural weaknesses, and encourage the digital, low carbon transformations that will be essential to shift to stronger, fairer and more sustainable models of tourism development.” (Read more)
Travelers also have some thinking to do. Travel TV and online features might have sustained us through the last year and a half, but the travel bug will bite again. When we get to pack our bags and book our flights, remember to be responsible and respectful. This was true even before we were hit by a global pandemic, but now it is about more than sustainability and cultural sensitivity. We have to be more sensitive “post” Pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be more adventurous. Try to think outside the box, combine your bucket list destinations with something out of the ordinary, research beyond the obvious. You might even consider Uganda, Uruguay or Uzbekistan…
Featured image: Restaurant Klein Jan. Fine dining in the remote Kalahari.