What a ride 2020 has been! Who would have thought that when we went into the initial three week lockdown that similar considerations would still be with us at the end of the year! Not surprisingly most of my blogs this year were coloured by Covid in some way and looking back, I think the topics really represent the curve of the Covid wave – especially for wine and tourism in South Africa.
Interestingly enough, I started the year with, A Rollercoaster Ride for SA Wine. What an understatement! This blog was about the looming junk status, consumer confidence and policy clarity – all big enough issues, but at that stage, without the Covid-factor! It was in February when I made my first reference to the virus in Lessons for Corona. “Nowadays all conversations lead to Corona. If you’re not in immediate danger of contracting the virus, you worry about how it will affect your travels or the economy or you despair on behalf of those infected and affected.” At that stage, the focus was more on best practice when it comes to the global health threat – sanitary practices, efficient communication. Still quite a bit removed from our own reality.
It was in March when Covid became real for South Africans. There were many rumours, panicked responses, uncertainty and even indifference. While the focus was wider, The importance of being informed used the virus as an example: “Getting caught up in incorrect and sensational reporting might have you running for the closest bomb shelter with a trolley or two stacked with soap.” A week later, the world was a different place and with Invention in a time of crisis, the fact that we were amidst a pandemic hit home and we looked at past pandemics and how they inspired creativity. “Future perspective is key. Yes, we need to survive now… Then, get creative with a contingency plan …” When President Ramaphosa announced a three-week lockdown, we applauded the timely action and started to make plans to maintain business in a strange new reality. It was, however, when wine sales were banned that Covid touched all our lives in the SA wine industry – even if you were as healthy as ever.
In the eye of the beholder was published on 27 March. “I understand that wine is not regarded as a necessity. Of course it is an enormous blow for the industry that local wine sales have been prohibited during lockdown… When government announced that wine is not essential, it didn’t only stop wine sales, it had a much broader effect. It made it impossible for the industry to continue exports and even worse, it prohibited wineries amid the annual harvest, to continue with the pressing season. The long-term effects of such a decision in an industry that struggles when it comes to profitability, but that annually contributes around R49 billion to GDP and offers 290 000 jobs throughout one of our largest export-orientated agricultural value-chains, would have been enormous.”
Perfect Time, Perfect Place appeared on 4 April trying to stay positive: “… we all need to realise that this is the perfect time and perfect place to learn – we have to focus on the takeaways.” Being in lockdown with plenty of time, but so much uncertainty, led to Gathering one’s thoughts in uncertain times: “Time to think is a modern-day challenge, but now, with Corona-induced time on hand, we suddenly have opportunity to gather our thoughts. Never before, though, have I found it so difficult. The reason? Uncertainty.” This uncertainty extended to the wine industry, especially, leading to What Waits for Wine in mid-April. “It’s impossible not to speculate about what would be waiting post-lockdown, post-Corona. Intelligent lockdown, social distancing, voluntary lockdown for the elderly, a new perspective on spending, a new type of economy… No question, we’ll have to apply our minds and be wise about it. But what will happen to business, more specifically, the wine business? The future of business is just as uncertain as our social future, but even more threatening as it affects our livelihoods.”
As lockdown was extended, we looked at how it affected our thoughts and behaviour. The trend to support local and to be part of your immediate community, resulted in Learning about Localism, For the Community, by the Community and A Social Experiment.
Realising the long term effects of the virus, lead to the rise of webinars – on wine, on tourism, on survival. I participated in some of these and from one, I shared quite a profound quote by Bernhard Bredell: “Let’s all suffer a little, so no one has to suffer a great deal.” These few simple words inspired my blog Let’s all suffer a little and gave such perspective to our current situation – on various levels.
While the ban on alcohol affected wine sales in South Africa, one of the industries worst hit globally, is tourism. Talking to role players across the globe, the wider tourism industry tried to evaluate the current situation. In Thinking and Talking Tourism: “We are in uncharted waters when it comes to the challenges that face the tourism industry today. There really isn’t research or examples to guide us here. When it comes to surviving the devastating effect of Covid-19 on travel and hospitality, we have to apply our minds and we have to discuss our ideas with each other. We might be socially distanced, but we have never before needed each other so much.” With the gradual opening of tourism, it was interesting to look at Two Types for Tourism. Those with a You Only Live Once approach vs those who believe “life is fragile.” The SA Government announced a Covid-19 response Tourism Sector Recovery Plan and What Tourism Needs discussed this strategy.
As we moved down the Covid-levels, alcohol sales were allowed again and delivery became an opportunity for restaurants. We looked at the opportunities in Finding a New Way for Food and was reassured about the consumer’s love for wine when rumours about the return of the ban lead to panic wine buying – Cry Wolf about Wine. With delivery of wine and food opening up, one of my favourite topics became very relevant and Testing Theory discussed the role of distribution and the fact that there was no better time to test its much talked about importance. Suddenly you had all the factors. Big volumes, limited staff and hours, eager customers and dependence on a third party. If ever there was a challenge and an opportunity for those in distribution!” But distribution nightmares were short-lived with the arrival of A Chilling Week for Wine and the reinstatement of the alcohol ban.
While everyone understood the importance of health and physical survival, neither are sustainable without economic survival. Entering the phase of protest and the #Jobssavelives campaign. The Power of Protest looked at protests of the pasts and whether they have the power to make a difference.
What made the second alcohol ban interesting is that it was not within the constraints of lockdown and in But the booze keeps flowing we looked at the roaring black market. “At the moment, those who are committed to responsible alcohol use are not involved in selling alcohol, so they can’t make their normal (heavily taxed) contributions to SARS and they are forced into a position where they have to retrench staff in an environment where employment already is an enormous challenge.” Both illicit trade and government corruption became topical in these days and in No One Wins we addressed this issue: “What we need, more than anything, are “old-fashioned” values: honesty, responsibility, dedication, work ethic. I find nothing wrong with the dream of living a good life, but when values are absent, the desire to find personal wealth can easily lead to corruption. Corruption inevitably leads to conflict and in the end – no one wins.”
It became apparent that even when it might arrive, normal will not be what it used to be. Commenting on the success of SaveSAWine and MoveOneMillion, Partnership – the only choice looks at the importance of cooperation. In Survival is on the charts – but recovery?, we realised that we have to adjust our expectations and focus on short-term survival.
Spring arrived and with the promise of new life came new hope. Tourism-focused blogs Here’s to Hope and A Tourist in your own town tried a positive perspective. “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.”
This positive trend continued in October. We were back at work, things had a bit more normality to them and we were making plans again. Always a Plan focused on practical suggestions for the tourism industry, while Agriculture – a change for the better looked at lessons learned from the pandemic.
2020 made us all appreciate the basics and Back to Basics looked at exactly that: “On both macro and micro level, we need the basics in place. It is about more than having a safe environment for tourists, we need our people to live in peace. And then, there is no empowerment like knowledge. An informed people can empower themselves and they can keep a government accountable. The issue is of course much more complex, but at the same time, it is very simple. Being safe is not only about the absence of crime, it is also about having a roof over your head. Being healthy means more than surviving Covid-19, HIV and TB, it is also about healthy diets and emotional well-being. Being educated is about more than school, it is also about community and emotional intelligence. Employment is not only restricted to the formal sector, it is also about opportunity and entrepreneurship. I believe, when we have the basics in place, we can revive the tourism industry and we can unlock the potential of our people and the economy. Why is it so hard to do?”
There is no denying that Covid affected each and every one of us and each and every industry. With South Africans becoming more relaxed, we were thinking about holidaying and with the holiday season (different as it may be this year), we considered dining trends – the movement towards Uncomplicated Eating and accommodation trends – camping becoming more popular and made me think of the challenges for the luxury industry (Luxury Redefined).
Just as we came up for air, though, we saw the second wave approaching. Now it is here and we have no option but to swim. My only advice is to focus on two simple things: Survival and Support (being there for others and accepting help when you need it).
Here’s to surviving the tidal wave that was 2020! Wishing you a blessed time with your families this festive season. Please stay safe! May we ride this new wave into the new year and find with it new energy and opportunity!