• The Editor

Is Leadership Lacking..?

There is no doubt that tourism has been decimated by the Corona virus and that the most important factor for future travel is the restoration of trust in travellers world-wide. Recent reports from Europe show that while many would love to travel again, they are suspicious and distrusting of long-distance travel because of the threat of the virus. Local travel - inter-regional, will probably become the first to restart, and that is a bad sign for long-haul destinations across the world.

Real or imagined, getting tourists to trust in their destination and product selections is the most important step in the effort to restore tourism globally, yet there is not one country's leadership that has even considered the need to create a system by which the safety and health of tourists can be reflected. While that is probably to be expected from most bureaucracies, it is the total lack of support for any private initiatives that really reflects government attitude towards tourism.

In southern Africa, tourism and the future of the industry has become an afterthought in an attempt to stem the pandemic. No thought or planning has been given to "after the pandemic" or about how government can assist the industry get back on its feet. As long-haul destinations, this region is going to have to think "outside of the box" in order to attract visitors - visitors that are now highly sensitive to anything that involves long flights with potentially infected fellow-travellers or the added risk of products and services that are not COVID-ready. By supporting initiatives that help businesses attract guests and visitors - rather than doing nothing, the industry has a better chance of rebuilding itself while the country benefits from foreign exchange and positive exposure.

Instead, quasi-public sector organisations such as tourism boards and marketing organisations, see these initiatives as having nothing to do with them. Even when they have no intention of doing anything themselves, they prefer to look away, pretending that the private sector is irrelevant in the future planning for tourism. They also forget that the tourism strength of their countries lies with the private sector who in spite of every possible obstruction that government can think of, have built tourism to where it was pre-COVID. In South Africa, the tourism budget has been cut by 1 Billion Rands - money that would have been used for marketing and branding, and yet - nothing!. If anyone thinks that this shortfall will be recovered by reducing staff numbers in these organisations (national and Provincial), think again. So the very least that the tourism authorities can do is support and encourage initiatives designed to address the concerns of travellers and encourage responsible travel.

And as for the so-called "leaders" of industry that have to-date failed the industry through a lack of leadership and even greed, perhaps they need to stop sitting on the sidelines and rather get involved in solid initiatives as a signal to government that they are serious about travel and tourism.

Now wouldn't that be a nice change?

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