It is Spring in the Southern Hemisphere and even though it had a lazy start in South Africa, the oak trees are now covered in those distinctive, bright green young leaves, vineyards are budding and Calla lilies are decorating the fields. Like all the years before, Spring has come and it is a sign of new life, one of hope. Is this also symbolic for the wine and tourism industries?
With President Ramaphosa announcing the movement to Level 1 regulations from next week and limited international travel from 1 October, one would definitely think that the tides are turning. Tourism is one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic – something that’s expected when you’re trying to combat a pandemic. In South Africa, where many rely on the formal and informal tourism sector, up to 400 000 job losses are predicted (Read more). Despite being so hard hit, we are a little bit fortunate that lockdown and travel restrictions were introduced in late March when the peak international tourism season in South Africa was coming to an end. For many European countries relying on summer tourists, the situation is also dire and up to 29 million tourism related job losses are expected in Europe. (Read more)
An ease in restrictions have allowed local tourists to explore their country and despite the obvious health concerns and definite financial challenges, I think many of us were surprised by the local support. In many instances, tourism establishments amended their offering, lowered their rates, introduced special offers and while the spending power might not be what it used to, South Africans wanted to get out and enjoy their beautiful country.
For tourism to survive, we need people with a You Only Live Once attitude. (Read more) We all have to be responsible and of course the industry takes health and hygiene measures very seriously, but we need people to take the chance of leaving the house, going on a weekend breakaway, booking for lunch. Of course there are those who would rather stay home, those who focus on another important aspect of life – the fact that it is fragile and for many this is also the right option. But life’s fragility is not limited to Covid-19, and even some senior citizens of a local retirement village in the Winelands dared to break isolation for a peaceful protest, standing in the street, asking to see their loved ones, to come out of the severe lockdown. (Read more) For them, more than most, life is fragile, but life is not only about our physical well-being and even in their difficult situation, they hope to see their families and return to some kind of normal.
During September, South Africans also celebrate our heritage. Something that is so diverse that it gives our country much of its charm and appeal, but at the same time, many of its challenges – such as our political heritage. Just as the fight against apartheid might have felt hopeless in some of the darkest hours, we might often feel that there is no hope of beating the injustice that is corruption. Faulty reasoning are often behind poor decision-making and perhaps some of that is also to blame for the deep hole that the SA wine and tourism industries find themselves in at the moment. The alcohol ban had a serious effect on the already pressured Restaurant business seeing many closures and job losses and wine industry association, Vinpro, says that up to 80 wineries and 350 wine producers might go out of business. (Read more) Keeping these realities in mind, dare we hope for recovery?
Is hope an idealistic concept? Is it not all about hard work, determination, innovation, cooperation, persistence? Are we not making our own destiny? I believe that you have to be determined and creative and focused, but there’s no denying that sometimes, it might feel that all your hard work is not coming to fruition, that plans are failing and partnerships are unstable. What motivates us then? It is hope. Hope can make you reconsider, change direction, find a new plan or a new partner and start again. While there’s hope, there’s life.