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Look back and smile: it’s Friday the 13th!

Destination Garden Route - Friday 13

Today is March the 13th; Friday the 13th

It is the end of what feels like a long week.  Lots of meetings this week: with potential clients, with operators, guides…  Marketing and industry bodies like Plett Tourism, Visit Knysna and SATSA all had meetings planned to update their membership and stakeholders.  Wesgro’s presence on the Garden Route was almost palpable from just looking at my diary.  The recently appointed CMO featured on all invitations.

But instead of these meetings being general feedback sessions on what the different organizations have been doing over the last couple of months, they all turned into brainstorm sessions about how to handle the impact of COVID-19 or the Corona virus on the travel industry in general and South Africa in particular.

There was a zoom meeting with the leading expert at the NICD or National Institute for Communicable Diseases, giving us SATSA Garden Route members a live update and latest info on how our government and health institutions are coping.  It is impressive to hear how everybody coming into the country at our international airports gets scanned for high temperature, and how this is actually common practice for quite a few years already.  South Africa is leading the pack in this regard, not just in Southern Africa but worldwide it looks like.  Communication from our Minister of Health as well as our President has been forthcoming and honest. 

The challenge will be balancing the risks of spreading the virus and strain on the health system on the one hand and socio-economic impact of possible travel restrictions and potential (self)quarantine for those possibly infected.

With major gatherings – including travel trade shows – being cancelled or at least held without live public we can only envision what impact that will have on our lives going forward. 

For me it feels a bit like during the Knysna Fires of June 2017: there is a natural disaster with severe social and economic impact on the community.  In this case it may or may not be natural, and to call it a disaster may be exaggerated, but that this virus has major socio-economic impact on the travel industry community as a whole is without doubt.  Like Knysna talks about ‘BF’ and ‘AF’ (‘before the fires’ and ‘after the fires’), so will the travel industry worldwide be talking about ‘BC’ and ‘AC’: before and after COVID-19. 

All that matters in disasters like these is how those not or less affected treat those affected.  Because we all know that in the end, after we lived through this as well, things will get back to normal again.  A new normal, a better normal.  Isn’t that exciting?  I for one can’t wait to see how this pans out for the industry, for our country, for the Garden Route!