Africa Travel Week

A gap in the storm?

The curated ATW column that gives you all the latest travel news and info without having to go down a few rabbit holes…

We’re sure not even the Type A planners would have included a global pandemic on their 2020 SWOT analysis or marketing plan. The storm came. We’re still rowing. But the last week has given some hope that maybe, just maybe, the storm clouds are starting to shift:

  • The Daily Maverick recently reported that in the week before lockdown, coronavirus cases in South Africa were increasing at an average of 33%. Since then, that rate has stabilised at between 4% and 6%.
  • Just over two weeks into Level Four (the glorious freedom of 6 to 9 am!), #Day52OfLockDown is trending on Twitter. As was #SoulfulSunday #AtHome. It appears there are indeed many #lessons in #gratitude during times of crisis.

Here’s how the storm is weathering our respective boats:

IN THE SKIES…

Experts and travellers alike are looking to the skies as an indicator of travel recovery. So, when will we be able to get on a plane?

BCG’s COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot Series draws data from global consumers every two weeks. The 13 May report showed that “nearly 60% of consumers are willing to fly as early as next month if certain health and safety measures are in place.”

IATA has released its plan detailing the measures the aviation industry will put in place to assure governments the public can fly safely. It’s (wisely) a layered approach advocating that “no single measure can mitigate all of the risks during the pandemic.”

Expect contact tracing, temperature screening, social distancing, extra cleaning and wearing masks to be the new normal of air travel. You may even be able to rebook onto alternative flights if your chosen flight is looking too crowded. In fact, from this week, United Airlines will allow passengers to rebook or claim a credit if their plane is nearing capacity, and they prefer not to sit on a crowded flight. Or will a private jet become the norm, not just the hallowed ground of the Kardashians?

However, there’s no beating around the bush. Travel confidence is at an all-time low. Customers want to be reassured that not only can they leave their country without facing a 14-day quarantine on their return, but trust that every care is taken to minimise risk even just stepping into the airport.

ASATA and SATSA are rallying to show the South African government that the travel industry is not as risky as they think, lobbying for intra provincial and interprovincial borders to open much sooner. Fingers crossed!

Further afield, European, North America and Asian airlines are still operating mostly regional flights, with some international ones. Global airlines not currently working are hoping for a phased return in June. Here in Mzansi, planes remain grounded, waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted.

But don’t forget, travel and tourism are not limited to air travel.

ON THE GROUND…

The silver lining on the pandemic cloud is that travellers and industry leaders alike are taking stock of what they consider travel to be. Looking closer to home, much closer, is an excellent place to start. Domestic tourism will be the first ‘travel product’ allowed. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Those in the know are working smart. No matter what boat we’re in – DMOs, SMMEs, hotels, cruise liners, airlines – we all need to think ahead for our customers so that they can work smarter too.

Speaking of destinations thinking smart, Málaga (Spain) and Gothenburg (Sweden) are two destinations doing just that. They were recently awarded the title of European Capitals of Smart Tourism for 2020, awarded by the EU as part of their initiative to get destinations thinking smart.

Destinations are rated according to initiatives in 4 categories: Sustainability, Accessibility, Digitalisation, and Cultural Heritage and Creativity.

France has also started a cautious comeback, allowing its citizens limited domestic travel, although travel between regions is still limited. Other European countries have followed similar measures, as is the US, opening region by region. Gatherings are still limited to a maximum of 10 people. Meanwhile, in Poland, the government is considering incentivising their citizens to travel domestically by offering domestic travel vouchers. Italy, a major hotspot of overtourism pre-pandemic, has said reports claiming that the Italian borders will remain closed to tourists for the remainder of 2020 are fake news.

Slowly, life is getting back to what is set to be our new normal. 

In the world of events, Melissa Bender, Head of Marketing, Messe Frankfurt South Africa, shared tips on how navigating the digital divide is the new reality (albeit virtual) of the events industry. She also included three useful tips that apply to all our recovery strategies:

  • Don’t wait to see what happens. Now is the time to rework what needs to be done.
  • Digital transformation has been on the table for a long time. Now we have no choice. Get savvy and adapt.
  • It’s also the time for industry experts to show their worth

Guided tour companies are also viewed through an unfortunate “pandemic-prism.” These companies are pivoting their businesses on their head. Virtual touring, small groups, radio headsets to ensure social distancing between guides and guests are on the drawing board.

Meanwhile, here’s one expert’s take on what business travel will look like in the foreseeable future.

IN THE WATER…

As for the seemingly ill-fated cruise industry, there may be hope on the horizon. Cape Talk chatted to Roland Muller from Development Promotions about the current state of the ocean cruise liner industry, with reports emerging that cruises could take to the waters as early as August 2020.

And perhaps cruising has found a lifeboat – agents who can build customer confidence. One smart travel agent has done the near-impossible – booking 28 passengers onto future cruises amid a pandemic. Yep, according to Mike Ziegenbalg, the situation is creating pent-up demand for cruising.

But the key?

Don’t wait for the customers to come to you. Airlines even say that travel agents are the key to returning to the skies. A good motto not limited to cruising alone.

Remember, it will take time for the storm to clear. All we need to do is keep on rowing. Until then, join us for some much-needed lighthearted relief at the Tourism Strong Pub Quiz this Friday hosted by our partner, Big Ambitions.

Big Ambitions

Big Ambitions

We are a specialist travel marketing and content agency that connects travel brands to their customers. From writing technical whitepapers to PR and social media, we’re experts at all forms travel content. We’ve worked in travel and speak your language.