I don’t want to talk about the C-word, about as much as you don’t want to hear it! But I do want to share some much-needed positive travel news.
Much like the rest of the world the travel industry has also found itself predominately online during what can definitely be deemed as one of the most challenging situations of our time.
Usually, I am jetting off to various locations around the world to attend one of the many travel trade shows where I get to meet with all the various partners I work with in the different destinations.
This past week I was attending such a show called Our Africa, from the comfort of my home office. Although it wasn’t quite the same as there were no hugs, handshakes or high fives it was still a very productive and positive event. It is a testament to how resilient the travel industry is and what a tight-knit community we are!
I got to virtually catch up with many of my long-term partners, hotels, lodges and activity providers. I also had the opportunity to meet many new faces and the places and spaces they represent.
Because travel is always evolving you are forever learning something new, no matter how long you have been in the game. I still find it incredible that I am constantly finding out about new spots and unique activities. I get so excited to share these new finds with you and one of the main purposes of attending such events is to know I have my finger on the pulse when it comes to travel trends! I was encouraged that during lockdown, my travel peers have not been idle!
It’s been the perfect time to do refurbishments, and some have even started with completely new builds! By the time things open up again, we are going to have a host of brand-spanking-new offerings in place! Staff are all trained on COVID related protocols and how best to implement procedures without impacting on the guest experience.
The added benefit of meeting with all of these folks, literally from Cape Town to Cairo, is that they are all on the ground in destination and able to give first-hand information as to what things are looking like in their respective countries at the moment. It’s crucial to work with people I trust because above all else I need 100% assurance that Traversing Africa travellers are safe and looked after wherever they may be.
Of course, the biggest discussions centred around what is travel going to look like in a post COVID world. Or in the event COVID is here to stay for longer than we would like, how do we navigate travelling safely around it?
Africa as a continent certainly lends itself well to the perfect post-COVID travel destination. Wide-open spaces, sparsely populated areas with fewer tourists, the ability to reconnect with nature, wildlife and our loved ones, disconnecting from devices if desired, deserted beaches…the list goes on.
So here are some of my main takeaways which I believe will be shaping the future of travel:
Although I have been offering and promoting private villas, lodges and even yachts for a long time, the thought is that exclusive use properties are definitely going to be more popular as people start to venture out of their own countries again. Being able to have sole use of a property with only your “travel bubble” is going to be key. Whether this is a multigenerational family or group of friends the options are endless. Private accommodation ranges from a 2-bedroom villa on a beach to a game lodge with 10 luxurious tents and everything in between. Benefits include private vehicles, private chefs, private guides and absolutely everything is customised to your party and their needs. Often the value for money is even more incredible and for a big family, it can prove much more cost-effective than staying in hotel rooms.
If COVID has shown us anything, it is that we can all work remotely no matter where that may be, provided we have a good WIFI connection. Gone are the days when being a digital nomad was reserved for the hipsters. With this in mind travellers no longer need to be restricted by the limited vacation days they get. Africa is far from most other continents, and in 10 days you can only see and do so much. Staying for 3-4 weeks or longer is now an option if you incorporate some workdays into your trip. Besides which we have all realised how necessary it is to slow down the pace of life and reset our priorities. To truly immerse yourself in a destination, means not to rush but to experience life as a local, and what better way than to remain in one place for longer. This ties in perfectly with apartment type stays in cities or the exclusive use options mentioned above.
Off the Beaten Path
Over tourism has become more than just a buzzword, it is in-fact a legitimate problem. Covid-19 has however literally ground over tourism to a halt overnight. Many believe it’s the much-needed break the earth needs to heal itself. Whether the damage done is reversible is a debatable topic. What is for certain is that thanks to COVID no one is ready to rush back to any place where there is a tourist traffic jam in the immediate future whether they are concerned about the environment or not. Google travel searches are currently centred around undiscovered gems far from the maddening crowd. You don’t need to search very hard when it comes to Africa options that are an antidote to the holidaying hordes and off the beaten path. There are game parks you may have never heard of and perhaps can’t even pronounce. But the experience you will have will be second to none, and more often than not more memorable and awe-inspiring than those of which the Joneses visited!
As we have been forced to discover our own backyards during lockdown, many people have taken to doing self-drives. The realisation that it is actually quite a fun adventure and the fact that it minimises contact with anyone else means that those who typically may not have been comfortable hiring a car and driving themselves around in destination may be more inclined to do so now. South Africa and Namibia are both excellent self-drive destinations with an extensive and safe road network. For those who would still prefer to be driven, private touring is the way to go. I believe we will be seeing a lot less of those big group tour busses on our roads, which I for one am kind of pleased about!
Planning for Future Trips
The result of all the trips that were put on hold for 2020, is that 2021 is already pretty booked up due to all the postponements. There is still some availability but it’s not going to stay that way for long. In all honesty, it is already time to start planning for 2022! I understand the thought of booking a holiday is probably the furthest thing from your mind given we don’t know what could happen next week let alone in the next 6 months. But, and a very big but, is that booking terms and conditions are much more in favour of the traveller than ever before. A very small if any deposit is required for many new reservations. Cancellations can be made up to as little as 48 hours prior to arrival. Changes can be made without penalties. Final payment is only due at 30 days out. And most importantly full refunds are being issued, not just those pesky future travel credits! So, what have you got to lose!
Safety and Hygiene Protocols
The first thing I do when I get on a plane is whip out my Lysol wipes and clean the tray table and armrests, and this was before Corona! I have hand sanitizer in my bag at all times and have always been very conscious of what I touch at airports including handrails! Kids on the other hand, not so much! I like many other parents have looked on in horror as my offspring licks windows and goodness knows what else! So, the fact that aircraft are now undergoing a deep clean pre and post every flight and that every surface is sanitized thoroughly in public spaces is at the very least reassuring. Paperless and contactless check-in is quick and easy but also helps the environment. Minimizing in-room amenities also alleviates so much waste, so this too is a win-win. How many people actually use the hotel provided shampoo! Sure, the masks are a little bit of a nuisance, but if it means we can travel safely then I am fully supportive of the directives to wear them. For a detailed report of new procedures in place at any of our partner properties please email firstname.lastname@example.org
At the time of writing Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia have opened their borders to international travellers. To say I am jealous of those who are getting to witness the great migration without the usual crowds or watching the sun go down over the Indian Ocean on a secluded beach is an understatement! But I am confident I will be travelling soon.
I also wanted to share a great free resource showing what the current travel status is across the globe. It’s a super handy interactive map that is being updated as things evolve in every country!