Dear Partners in Tourism,

It is Spring in Southern Africa – as I look out from my office window the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow Tree is in full bloom with white, lilac & purple flowers. The light new green Spring foliage is appearing and we expect to see the purple Jacaranda blossoms soon.

We’re also starting to see the green shoots of a tourism recovery with a trickle of international tourists. It certainly is no bumper summer harvest and lots of tilling, fertilizing, weeding and watering will still need to be done before the tourism garden is again in full bloom.

More & more governments are slowly opening up their borders for their citizens to travel. A mind-set change is also needed in many countries from trying to eradicate COVID to living with, mitigating and managing life in the presence of COVID. Governments are naturally risk-averse but politicians in many places have also shown their true colours to try to seize control, to scare, to restrict, and to overregulate.

The tourism economy will flounder unless the industry keeps pushing for, fighting for, campaigning for and motivating everyone that international travel can, should and will resume. We’re all professionals and have no intensions to put our clients & businesses at risk – so all in context.

But there is definitely a need to put more pressure on the politicians in many countries to consider the severe impact their policies have on the tourism industry within an evolved ‘lives & livelihoods’ discussion.

Travel is our passion and business our trade – which means most people in the tourism industry have an entrepreneurial spirit – to grow, to explore, to nurture, to create, to look at things from a different perspective, to find solutions, to expand, to fight against the odds and work fingers to the bone but also to dream, to yearn, to savour and to appreciate. We can’t forgo that and travel is the conduit to rekindle the few embers of the entrepreneurial fire & spirit in most people’s minds – not only in an economics context. The longer people live without travel the smaller that flame gets. Now is the time to stoke the flames!

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

During September we participated in the Digital Show (the virtual format of a combined PURE, We Are Africa & LE Miami). It was wonderful to speak to some of our current partners but also to new buyers from around the world – getting updates on the situations in various markets but also being able to connect with travel people on a one-to-one basis. We’ve always tried to regularly visit our partners around the world and the show just highlighted how much we’ve missed this interaction and look forward to seeing our partners in person again.

We launched a new website just before the world of travel ground to a halt in early 2020. We’ve therefore never been able to showcase the functionality and content to our partners. With the travel recovery starting I’d like to highlight some of this to our trade partners. Unfortunately it is not in person but the links will lead you to some key areas of the website and you can explore further on your own.

We’ve always strived to empower our partners with optimal destination knowledge but also tools to allow you to be seen as the expert in your clients’ eyes.

The website contains lots of information on the destination but also feedback reports on product we’ve visited (we’ve not been idle while international travel was curtailed and we explored and reviewed far & wide in the last 18 months while we could still travel domestically).

Sample itineraries, content on trends as well as a few off-the-beaten track and quirky features can also be found. The following links will lead you to these:

Being able to quickly and at a glance access product information can be a challenge. Jumping between product websites, comparing product and getting a grip on location, style, design and feel for a product can easily lead you down a rabbit hole of confusion and frustration.

We’ve solved this conundrum with a search functionality categorised in regions and giving you access to qualified product we’ve vetted and selected. Everything you’ve always wished for at your fingertips!

This link will lead you to an interactive map indicating the regions you can search for product in. The maps also focus on ‘tourists regions’ rather than purely geographical – with areas such as the Garden Route or Greater Kruger National Park area highlighted.

Additionally you’ll be able to narrow down your research based on travel theme.

Similarly we’ve created a search functionality based on various travel themes (e.g. romance, family travel, nature & wildlife etc.).

You’re then also able to narrow down your travel theme search based on a specific region.

Enjoy the exploration!!

In these times travellers need information and assurances on the situation in destinations. We’ve therefore summarised the rules & regulations around travel to South Africa:

  • South Africa’s borders are open to tourists from all nationalities.
  • A negative PCR test is required for entry and the test can’t be older than 72 hours at time of boarding for your flight to the destination. Should you not have the required PCR test you will be denied boarding at the originating point.
  • It is not a requirement to be vaccinated to visit South Africa.
  • A negative PCR test is required regardless if you’re vaccinated or not.
  • No quarantine required on arrival in South Africa.

Information on travel to other countries in the region is available on request.

South Africa experienced it’s ‘third wave’ during the July/August period and we’ve now officially exited this wave. Daily new cases have dropped dramatically and the latest ‘7-day average’ is below 2000 new cases per day and dropping.

Similarly to most emerging economies our vaccination campaign started slowly and was initially hampered by access to vaccines. The rollout has been ramped up dramatically in the last month. More than 20% of the adult population are now fully vaccinated. We’re currently vaccinating a million people every 4-5 days and the target of 70% of adult population by December 2021 is achievable. Areas that are traditionally on tourists visit lists such as Cape Town and the Western Cape are already past 50% of adult population with at least one dose. We’re using both Pfizer (2-jab) and Johnson & Johnson (1-jab) in South Africa. The 1-jab J&J vaccine will help in achieving fully vaccinated status for more people quicker.

Tourism players and people in the tourism industry understands the importance of vaccination in reviving the industry (and also for the safety of guests but also employees in the industry and their families and loved ones). Many safari lodges have already achieved fully vaccinated status of more than 80% of staff and in some cases surpassed 95%.

Although the country’s vaccination percentage might be low compared to some other countries, the people that tourists will come into contact with will likely be vaccinated already and the areas they visit have high vaccination numbers. South Africa is a big country with a large population – with many people in rural areas that tourists won’t come into contact with.

A big country however allows for wide open spaces, social distancing, fresh air, an outdoor lifestyle (especially in our Spring & Summer period from September to April) and activities & sights that are ideal for travel in the COVID era. Our borders have been open for a year and domestic travel allowed for even longer. By now the protocols & procedures to facilitate safe but enjoyable travel during the times of COVID are ingrained and practiced by the hospitality and tourism industry.

We can’t wait to welcome your tourist clients to our shores – hopefully sooner than later!

We look forward to walk the path of tourism recovery with you. We will continue to support, motivate, inspire, tease, cajole and persevere with our partners around the world.

Travel will endure – a world without travel is a world without soul.

Best Tourism regards