It’s Time To Accommodate Our New Normal
As we know, every sector of the economy has been negatively affected by Covid-19 and the travel and tourism sector, in particular, has been the worst hit.
Most countries across the globe have put measures in place to restrict and contain the spread of the virus. These measures include closing borders or travel restrictions (including no inbound/outbound air travel) and, in many cases, similar to our country, lockdowns have been imposed. This means that the supply and demand sides (such as accommodation offerings) of our tourism industry have all temporarily collapsed, causing tourism, in general, to grind to a halt, with a devastating domino effect wiping out thousands of jobs.
To put this dilemma into perspective, in the past ten years, the tourism sector has been growing faster than any other sector in South Africa and was amongst the best performing sectors in our economy. The number of international arrivals grew from 8.1 million in 2011 to 10.2 million in 2019.
Tourism directly contributed R130.2 billion (2.7 percent) to GDP in 2018 and an estimated R145.3bn (2.9 percent) of total GDP last year.
According to our Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, “all of us have to appreciate that travel and tourism will never be the same; it has changed and it is changing. However, the beautiful places will still be there when the pandemic passes and people will still need places to visit and enjoy rest after they labour. We are, therefore, confident that tourism will recover, but the provision of certain tourism services will be altered forever. Some changes might be temporary until the world discovers a vaccine”.
So what can we do in the interim?
The tourism sector will undeniably be the last to fully reopen as it is totally people/traveller/visitor-based. Now we have to adapt to a new normal – and quickly – to sustain operations as best we can. Most West Coast Way tourism businesses rely heavily on generating crucial revenue from their accommodation and restaurant offerings, etc. But this is no more, for the time being.
Our business models and marketing angles have to change. For example, once internal provincial travel is relaxed, let’s consider creating fun, day attractions (with paid day-passes) for tourists along West Coast Way using – and exploiting – the unique and existing features of our existing hospitality establishments and infrastructures – always ensuring everything is totally Covid-19 safe and secure.
The West Coast Way boasts an unrivalled abundance of unique experiences that we, as a collective, can share and capitalize on until the virus eases up and passes.
Later this month, I will be hosting a series of webinars for all interested stakeholders to participate in to map our West Coast Way forward. In the interim, my team and I will be researching anti-Covid-19 tourism initiatives across the globe that we can perhaps learn from and adapt to our situation.
Please watch this space and feel free to contact me with any feedback and inputs. Remember, we’re in this together!
– by Carmen Lerm
The West Coast way offers six completely free, themed routes for you to self-drive: Tractor Route, Berg Route, Foodie Route, Cultural Route, Wild Route – as well as the scenic Cape Way Route – all of which showcase the many drawcards and nature activities that punctuate these roads.