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COVID-19, now what?

Destination Garden Route - corona fire

The last couple of days have been a bit of a rollercoaster as far as COVID-19 and its impact have been.  Whether you are in the USA or wanting to get there, Trump’s radical announcement to restrict all flights from mainland Europe has an impact on travel beyond the media hysteria which already existed around this virus.  Whether The Netherlands still thinks it is an overreaction of note when ‘only’ a small percentage of the population worldwide is infected and an even smaller percentage of those infected die because of it, is something that is currently frowned upon by the international community.  We will most probably never be able to find out whether the USA or The Netherlands were right or wrong, as not only the virus but also the reactions evolve. 

Another example of how countries react is neighbouring Namibia, who decided not to let any flights from Germany amongst others (one of their biggest source markets from a tourism- and therefore economic point of view) land in Namibia for at least the next …. Days.  Even though there are currently only … cases of Corona infections reported in Namibia.  By closing its borders the Namibian government is trying to protect its citizens, its health system, and ultimately its economy.  It can not have been an easy decision as the peak in tourist season will this year not be a peak, but rather resembling a flat line…

The image of this seriously ill person lying in ICU being monitored constantly is what comes to mind.  The ill person affected by this virus is the travel industry.  Worldwide.  We are all affected, and the impact this virus will have on our lives is something we cannot comprehend as yet.

What it does to me personally is something I intend sharing with you in a series of blogs like this one.  To an extend it feels like I’m back in the days of the Knysna Fires: a disaster happened which we could not control initially.  It took cooperation of different organizations, of different spheres of government and different civil organizations to fight the disaster and to control its impact on the environment and people affected at large.  Almost three years down the line all I can say is these fires impacted hugely on Knysna, the Garden Route and the people who live and work here.  And yes, on me personally as well.  I wrote about that before.

For me the defining moment of this current crisis was last Friday.  Friday the 13th.  While sitting in the audience being updated on marketing efforts and initiatives being undertaken by our local and provincial (semi)government bodies the message came in that WTM Africa has been ‘postponed’ for a year.  Although it did not come unexpected, its full impact has not sunken in yet. 

Travel trade shows like WTM Africa and Africa’s Travel INDABA are major events on our marketing calendar, and tourism establishments on the Garden Route with budgets which didn’t allow them to go to these events themselves relied on Destination Garden Route to get the word out there about their unique proposition.  At this year’s WTM Africa the Garden Route Collection was going to be officially launched: an online platform specifically for the travel trade, and specifically for the Garden Route including the Klein Karoo.  That is still going to happen, albeit it in a slightly different form.  Watch this space!

So while we know our own government here in South Africa will be getting together today and decisions with regards to travel restrictions from and to certain countries or regions in the world or even a total lockdown are expected, the only thing we know for sure is that adaptability and resilience are key factors that set us apart, not only as a country, but also as an industry.

On that note I am going to leave you today.  There is work to be done, people to be inspired, places to be shared!  If not in the person, then at least online.  See you ‘out there’, in Destination Garden Route!