Without the opportunity to travel as extensively as we usually do, my blogs for 2021 had a strong local flavour. Other than the lessons from my life-changing trip to the Serengeti, insights from the Olympic games and always the American political drama – from a coup to a new president – it was the many challenges in our own backyard that provided a year’s worth of content. (See links to some of the blogs at the end.)
While President Ramaphosa’s family meetings made him more prominent in our lives, there were also former presidents on the local agenda. Jacob Zuma actually served some jail time leading to unprecedented riots (Just this week, the high court ordered him back after his medical parole – read more.) and we also saw the passing of FW de Klerk. But although everything happens against a political backdrop, Covid was the newsmaker of the year, for the second year in a row. And in 2021, it was all about the vaccine. First the elation when the option became available and then the force of the anti-vaccine movement that is still leaving many of us perplexed.
Vaccines and even a vaccine passport looked like the beacon of hope the embattled Tourism industry had wished for. Tourism needs more than a plan, it also needs exceptional hard work and perhaps a little bit of luck. It is with such hard work and determination and energy that the Franschhoek Wine Valley, one of SA’s most important tourism hotspots, decided to mobilise the community to get vaccinated. After an exceptional effort, they were able to announce in November that more than 80% of the local population received their jabs. Amidst the fourth wave hitting the Western Cape, the Omicron variant bringing uncertainty and the UK adding SA to their dreaded Red List (that has been lifted this week – read more), Tourism continues to brave the onslaught.
Just as Tourism, Wine is close to my heart and it seems the SA wine industry survives one challenge, just to face another. Just as we were bumping back from the draught, Covid-induced liquor bans hit us hard and even though exports were allowed, chaos in the harbours made finding a container and a vessel the miracle of the year. When alcohol abuse leads to trauma and overcrowded hospitals, it is sometimes hard to defend your industry, but I found it necessary to explain Why Wine Matters. It is encouraging to see industrious wineries and marketers making work of oversupply and with a good harvest and more leniency from Government when it comes to allowing wineries to trade, I share the sentiments of Vinpro CEO Rico Basson, that we have to let go of the past and bounce forward. I was very excited about two new products from our own stable. The Vin de Joie Rosé just in time for summer and Pardus, a red blend that I’ve been dreaming about. The complete process of introducing a new product brought so much excitement and energy!
Recovering might be too strong a word at the moment, but even surviving and getting back on our feet, might be harder and taking longer than anticipated. When I look back at all the topics we covered this year, my takeaway is that we have to keep on learning and that we have to keep our minds open. We have to think big and we have to be brave. At least, now, whether we are able to go away on holiday or just stay in our own backyards, for most of us the festive season brings somewhat of a break and a chance to light a fire. Yes, the braai means much more to us than food and fire – it brings reflection and camaraderie. It gives us the time to stop and think. Such simple ideas, but hopefully they will ensure some sense when we tackle a brand New Year.
Links to some of the highlight blogs of the year:
Tweet: Politics, Covid and challenges to industry in our own backyard gave us plenty to talk about this year. Perhaps now is the time to enjoy a braai in that backyard, reflect and recoup and hope for sense and sensibility in the New Year.