In the middle of winter, when tourism is slow in the Cape Winelands, the Franschhoek Valley celebrates its Huguenot heritage with a popular Bastille Festival generating some activity and revenue in a quiet time. This year, as public celebrations are still very much limited, the festival goes virtual, at the same time introducing the experience to a wider audience. While the valley is open for business and some people can’t wait for a chance to get out and about, many still prefer to stay safely at home – introducing two types of post-lockdown people.
There is no denying that Covid has changed life as we know it and while lockdown took away our choices, life post-lockdown is more interesting. Zak Dychtwald who runs a consultancy focused on Chinese Millennials, identified two types of responses to the disruption of our normal lives. “Some people, who skew younger, are taking the “YOLO” approach of enjoying life while they can because “tomorrow isn’t promised.” They’re eating out, hanging out, “revenge shopping,” traveling… But others, especially those walloped by the economic toll of the lockdown, have resolved to “live cautiously” because “life is fragile.” (Read more)
From a tourism and hospitality perspective this is quite interesting. The You Only Live Once approach seems to be the answer to the prayers of restaurants and accommodation establishments, who, if they managed to survive this far, are in dire need of any income. It is about earning a livelihood, but it is also in the character of a town like Franschhoek to host and to entertain. Driving down the Main Road, it is as if the town is holding its breath for the first opportunity to wave someone into a parking place, polish a glass, set a table… But even now that regulations allow some activity, opening hospitality and tourism, demands a whole new type of responsibility without which there will not be sustainability.
Creativity and innovation are essential. Adapting your offering goes without saying. And even the more cautious group brings opportunity. While they might not be up to the regular restaurant offering, those not willing to dine out (whether it is because they are too Covid-conscious or can’t imagine dinner without a glass of wine…), can make use of the delivery options and deli shopping born out of necessity before restaurants were able to reopen their doors. Almost like the Bastille festival that now offers an option of coming to the valley or enjoying a virtual experience, the new normal is opening up tourism to a wider audience and new opportunities.
But while everyone can have a wider reach through their digital offering, from a financial viability perspective, I’m of the opinion that we need to get back to our normal offering as soon as possible. Those in hospitality are dedicated to the well-being of their guests. Covid has brought new challenges, but being customer-focused, I think we can adapt and employ safety and hygiene measures and ensure guests the peace of mind they require.
One of our biggest challenges is at the essence of our offering – not being able to host wine tastings and pull a cork in a restaurant. It is not all about alcohol, but wine is an essential part of the Winelands offering and keeping it to off-sales from Monday to Thursday, definitely halts the reopening of tourism in our part of the world. There is no place for negativity though. We all understand that South Africa has unique challenges and that when allowing on-consumption, it will not be limited to sophisticated restaurants with protective shields and social distancing.
Hopefully between those with a YOLO attitude and the option of a virtual offering for the vulnerable,careful and distant, tourism will survive – even within a new normal.