Two months have passed since we spoke about the inspiring coming together of the safari industry in response to COVID-19, which had begun impacting travel in Africa.
As the world slowly begins settling into a “new normal”, influenced by social distancing, national lockdowns, as well as the collective strength and innovation of the human spirit, we take a look at where travel in Africa is today, and what we might see in the coming months.
On the ground, it’s all hands on the safari deck
Content linked to buzzwords like ‘armchair travel’ and ‘virtual safari’ is allowing more people to see what an African safari experience looks like in real time. During South Africa’s nationwide lockdown, the staff at Garonga, a luxury safari camp near Kruger National Park, are sharing the fun and games around camp in their weekly Garonga Diaries blog and light-hearted ‘behind the scenes’ videos on social media.
With zero guests visiting safari camps and lodges, there has been a vacuum of funds needed for wildlife conservation and community empowerment projects. Leaders in Africa’s travel and tourism industry have found new ways of raising these funds so that these important initiatives can continue.
Also in South Africa, the Zululand Conservation Trust in conjunction with Manyoni Private Game Reserve and Rhino Sands Safari Camp, have been crowd-funding from businesses and individuals to continue their endangered wildlife conservation and anti-poaching programmes, pay their staff, and also provide food parcels and support to local communities.
Over in Zambia, the Tongabezi Trust School (Tujatane), which was set up and is managed by Tongabezi, a luxury lodge upstream from Victoria Falls, is benefiting from the successful JustGiving COVID-19 Community Food Relief Fundraiser. This campaign is aimed at funding an important food relief programme for previous and current students of Tujatane through the distribution of food and other necessities to each pupil and their
families to relieve the pressure of having extra food to buy during this difficult time. In less than 24 hours, the fundraising campaign had beaten their target!
While the approaches taken may be different, the common understanding among these and others is that digital marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to staying engaged with audiences who are searching for inspiration and ways to give back to those in need during this uncertain time.
Looking ahead to sustainable, personalised and high-spend travel
As the negative impact of over-tourism was spotlighted last year, this year gave us a zoonotic virus which has resulted in zero tourism and all the related consequences. In a recent webinar co-hosted by the African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta) and Kenya Tourism Board, key travel and tourism industry roleplayers discussed possible strategies for consideration towards tourism recovery, including the opportunities to work together in readiness for the ‘reset’ of the industry.
In discussing the way forward for travel in Africa, Dame Fiona Jeffery, who is the Chairperson of Atta, Founder and Chairperson of Just a Drop, and Former Chairperson of World Travel Market, pointed to our current crisis as an opportunity to reassess the social and environmental impacts of travel. In reshaping the future travel model with this in mind, it will provide the industry with the necessary gravitas to be taken seriously by travellers and governments who are now, more than ever, sensitive to these very real concerns.
Calvin Cottar, Director of Cottar’s Safaris, a luxury safari camp and villa in Maasai Mara, echoes this sentiment at the safari property and agent levels. The Cottar’s family partners closely with the local Maasai community to ensure land security for farmers together with conservation of critical wilderness and wildlife corridors.
Calvin urges that “the criteria for sustainable travel and eco-credentials for camps and lodges has to, in future, be hardened down to concrete and hard metrics. Then, the huge number of travel agents and destination marketing companies selling agencies have to rethink their strategies. They need to structure trips so that a guest is doing the planet better by traveling than not travelling.”
We have been able to stay current within this ever-changing context by tuning into the TripAdvisor Insights webinars, a valuable source of industry trends and developments. Their research indicates that recovery of the travel industry will likely take a ‘W-shape’, where there is an initial surge in demand followed by a steep drop. This surge will likely come from the domestic market, where travellers will choose holiday destinations within driving distance. This move away from flights to cars reflects the traveller’s sensitivity towards confined spaces, which is further evidenced by people’s greater interest in outdoor adventures rather than city-breaks.
Looking abroad, signs of hope are beginning to show for the international travel and tourism industry, as countries with falling infection rates are planning to ease some travel restrictions under strict conditions. European countries like Greece and Iceland will soon open their national borders, limitations on movement within cities and countries are being freed up, and Emirates has announced commencement of flight routes to nine different destinations.
Stay home today so we can travel tomorrow
Our belief in travel to and within Africa remains strong. When the virus is contained and travel begins again (because this too shall indeed pass), we will look back together at how a difficult time made us all more adaptable and resourceful than ever before.
From all of us in the WildWeb family, stay safe and healthy over this time.