South Africa is slowly starting to recover from the crippling effect of the lockdown imposed as a result of COVD-19. The fact that many businesses in the tourism industry are struggling to survive – of those that have not folded yet – have been splashed across headlines for months.
The real question now is, what can we do about it? How can South Africans show ubuntu, the community-minded spirit we are so well known for? Beside government grants and other COVID-relief packages which may or may not have been distributed effectively, the public can play a huge part in building or sinking a business.
The majority of residents have been hard hit financially and need to fend for themselves in the wake of the pandemic. Here are simple and meaningful ways each of us can contribute to the rebuilding of our country’s vital travel sector, and in turn the national economy, by having fun and doing what we love.
1. Decide what you love most
The average South African is not likely to have an endless budget to splurge on anything and everything that comes up. We all deserve to have fun and relax after a hard work week, but will probably have to choose one or two things to do. Decide what it is you enjoy most. Some people love to get the adrenaline pumping, and might save up for a skydiving experience, scuba diving lessons or a rock climbing outing. Others love exploring new places and travelling between cities. Then of course, there are the foodies, the wine experts and the coffee connoisseurs. It would be wise and most economically efficient to set your mind on one or two of those things per month, then plan, budget and save for it.
2. Spend money on experiences, not stuff
Each person is different and many are hooked on retail therapy. But the truth is, most large franchise stores have weathered the storm and are already starting to market overpriced items as Christmas specials. Buying interesting and unique items or gifts from a small private business is one thing but aimless wandering through the mall and swiping the credit card for all that glitters is not the best way to help. If you are going to spend money, look into experiences offered by tour operators. Whale watching, guided hiking, a nine-course dinner or gin tasting, a tailored trip to the bushveld. Those are the things that create memories with loved ones, and support the tourism and hospitality sectors at the same time.
3. Be open to trying different places
If ever there was a time to be open-minded, this is it. The holidays are around the corner so most people will have a bit more time on their hands to enjoy the summer weather. Try to keep an eye out for interesting things you haven’t tried before. You might just discover a whole new passion! You can keep it in the same vein of things you usually enjoy, or go rogue. Used to 5-star hotels? Why not try glamping, or even camping? If you’re feeling more adventurous, go all out. If you’re an avid scuba diver, do that next level course. Maybe even face your fears. Afraid of heights? See if you can rack up the courage for a bungee jump. Don’t knock it till you try it.
4. Support green initiatives
Always do some research on the tour operators/airlines/hotels/restaurants you are supporting. Being environmentally conscious is now more important than ever. There is a lot of information available online on topics like the ethics of animal encounters, sustainable fishing, the benefits of buying local and aiding conservation. Blindly choosing companies that seem to promise a good time but have questionable practices might not be the most responsible. It’s worth supporting sustainable initiatives.
5. Spread the word
When you’ve been there and got the t-shirt, share the love. Word of mouth can be more effective than top-dollar advertising campaigns. All you need to do is snap a few pictures and share them online while giving a shoutout to the company you supported. Find out what their social media handles are and tag them. Use the relevant hashtags and check in online everywhere you go. Helping to put small businesses on the map can go a long way and if you had a good experience, it will take you less than five minutes to write a good review or tell a friend.