Elbow to elbow, we’re in this together.
Over the days following our first coverage on how the safari industry had already begun feeling the impacts of coronavirus, which at that point had only just reached sub-Saharan Africa, many African countries have since joined the world in experiencing a shift in our lifestyles, community interaction and job security across all sectors. We are all doing our part to curb the further spread of COVID-19 and travel restrictions are unfortunately a part of the current reality.
We can’t sugar coat it and we aren’t going to delve into the number of cases in Africa or internationally because we know you all have your finger on that pulse. We have carried with you your anxieties about what closing down your safari camp or tour operation means to those you employ, your partners in the industry and the wildlife conservation and community empowerment initiatives that may be compromised as a result.
Is there a silver lining?
What we will do, is to tell you that our belief in travel to and within Africa remains strong. So too does our investment in getting through this with you and coming out together as a more robust, resilient and innovative group of people. Because this too shall pass and we are keeping our chins up until it does.
Developments in travel are changing constantly. Rather than giving up under these challenging circumstances, it has been inspiring to witness the safari industry coming together and proactively supporting each other. Partnerships have continued in spite of the financial squeeze, knowledge about adapting approaches to booking policy and online messaging has been shared widely, and optimism towards mitigating losses with long-term solutions has underpinned the continued momentum within the industry.
Are travellers supporting #PostponeDontCancel?
The safari industry has joined together under the banner of #PostponeDontCancel, calling on people to delay rather than altogether ditch their travel plans to Africa. Garonga, a luxury safari camp in South Africa’s Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, is encouraging their community of travellers to continue daydreaming about their South African safari.
Luxury travel writer, Juliet Kinsman, explains in a recent Condé Nast article why fellow travellers shouldn’t cancel their holiday: “Changing the date of that booked holiday could be the kindest thing to do right now. Rather than seeking a refund, simply postponing plans might be a greater help than you could imagine. It may not feel right even thinking about travel right now – but we will want to. And until we do, there are a lot of people out there relying on us.”
Just this morning, Chris Mears, CEO of the African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta), pointed out encouragingly that “operators are reporting that many clients are taking the option to postpone their travels and we need everyone to encourage this and put flexible policies in place to allow it to happen. Everyone is going to want to get away once this crisis is behind us”.
For many safari camps, lodges and tour operators, it has been a combination of existing reputations as industry leaders and then adapting policies in a highly personalised, case by case manner that have encouraged current bookings to delay, not cancel.
How do businesses market themselves sensitively?
The above call to action had been preceded by encouraging people to escape to the wide, open spaces of African countries that at the time had minimal or even zero coronavirus cases. We saw this change over the course of about a week to a new messaging approach that:
– Keeps your brand in the forefront of their minds by maintaining a consistent presence on social media, blogs and other online platforms. When times are tough, the knee-jerk reaction can often be to stop all marketing; this stands to put you on the back foot when people start travelling again.
– Inspires people to travel post-COVID through beautiful imagery of destinations, wildlife and experiences with text that is upbeat without saying ‘come or book now’. Even if people wanted to, travel restrictions and bans are not allowing that to happen.
As coronavirus begins to become less of a threat, travel restrictions will start loosening and people will really start looking at either fulfilling that trip they had postponed or begin booking a much-needed holiday. At this point, we believe that messaging would change to:
– Focusing on the local travel market. This is because people from all walks of life will have felt the financial implications of coronavirus and might still be nervous to travel abroad just yet.
– Encouraging bookings in 2021, particularly if travel bans continue through this year’s dry season, the ultimate time for wildlife safaris. Look to target messaging around special holidays as well as newlyweds that never got to go on their honeymoon.
We continue to keep our ears to the ground in order to ensure messaging is sensitive, relevant and relative to how the global travel community is feeling at the time.
Where is WildWeb currently based?
The WildWeb Team is working remotely in order to protect ourselves and those in our community. We hold daily morning meetings and chat throughout the day using the relevant online platforms that make remote working so easy.
We may be scattered across Durban, along with three members working from their homes in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Caldas da Rainha in Portugal, but we have not let the current situation affect the cohesion or positivity within the organisation.
Lastly, from all of us in the WildWeb family, we wish you and yours good health over this time.