Travel and Coronavirus

How the Travel Industry is Innovating in Times of Crisis

There is an ugly truth about coronavirus and the travel industry. That is, clearly travel will be the one of the last industries to recover. Due to the implementation of the ‘alert system’ in South Africa, domestic travel will only be allowed when infection rates are extremely low. International travel will only be allowed when infection rates are virtually nil.

Therefore, travel entrepreneurs need to be extremely creative in order to survive. While some industry leaders have chosen to scale down and hibernate, others are leaning in and innovating.

This article was written in partnership with Amy Knight-Dawson from Scribe Consulting. Amy and I went out into ‘the field’ of virtual networking to discover some of the best innovations in African Travel.

1. &Beyond ‘Bringing Africa Home’

In an admirable campaign to remain relevant, luxury lodge group &Beyond created a fantastic post-COVID website.  The website is called ‘Bringing Africa Home.’  Without a doubt, &Beyond has truly brought Africa to life for anyone with a laptop in hand.  In this case, site visitors can learn African cooking, watch wildlife movies, get African book recommendations, or take the kids on a virtual safari.  In short, the brand really is bringing Africa home with engaging content

2.WETU Itinerary Builder

WETU is a widely used online itinerary building solution. Leaders at WETU have been working tirelessly to find creative ways of surviving these trying times. The business has consequently scaled down temporarily, while working with employees on income replacement grants.  Furthermore, WETU have reduced fees dramatically in order to assist tour operators with cash flow. 

Notwithstanding the above, the most interesting innovation is one we are not allowed to know about! Given the heavy investment in tech at WETU, the management team is looking at ways to reinvent the software solution.  For this reason, it will be interesting to see where we see where the ‘new’ WETU pops up in the coming months. Overall, this is a brilliant example of using existing resources to vet a new venture.

3.African Bushcamps social media messaging

African Bushcamps game drive

African Bushcamps founder Beks Ndlovu knows how to choose a great team. Although the luxury lodge company is cutting costs, they are similarly leaning in on social media. African Bushcamps’ social campaigns are thriving as a result. For example, one video shows evocative imagery from Africa and the message that staff are excited to welcome their guests again. Another video reveals gratitude messages from ABC team members. This kind of social messaging undoubtedly connects the tribe to the brand. Generally, I would have to give ABC a big thumbs up for their social campaigns.

4. Mosaic Lagoon Lodge – lockdown sanctuary

This may not qualify as industry innovation, but I loved the story.  A few days before the hard lockdown, a guest contacted Mosaic Lagoon Lodge. The reservations team was asked to secure a booking for an indefinite period, at a deep discount, for the entire lodge. Obviously, the management consented. Hence, some clever human is on an endless holiday in paradise with his besties – in lockdown! On the whole, my ideal lockdown scenario looks a bit like this.  I only wish I had thought of it earlier….

5.Bespoke Safari Co. 

Bespoke Safari Co. pivoting in travel

Lastly, there is my company. I had the profound misfortune that my business bank account was closed by the Reserve Bank right before the COVID19 Lockdown. Lucky me. I could only breathe, stay calm, and get very creative – very fast.

Thus, I pulled all my old skills out of the proverbial closet. I am a yoga teacher, so I started teaching more. I offered a free weekly lockdown class on Zoom. I started writing and submitting my work for freelance jobs. I started doing online marketing consultancy – pro bono, while I build a portfolio. 

To sum up, what I have realized on my journey is that there is a silver lining in the COVID19 chaos. In particular, we are in an unprecedented era of engaging with – literally – a captive global audience.  If we can leverage the unique opportunities this presents, it seems clear that travel will bounce back quickly. After all, the yearning for exploration is as timeless as life itself.