Ready, Steady, Go: Are You Prepared for the Summer Season?


As summer swiftly approaches, bringing with it the long school holidays and much needed end-of-year breaks, travel – both domestic and international – is springing back to life.

The question is, are local travel suppliers ready to meet the sudden change in demand? Are you prepped and ready to cater to the needs, desires, and expectations of the many ‘out of practice’ travellers heading your way? Not to mention, properly covered for the risks (and any eventuality) associated with silly season?

For most, the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘getting there’! But for those who still feel slightly overwhelmed as they gear up for season, our experts were all too happy to weigh in …

Are people really ready to return to travel?

According to Chris Mears, CEO of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) in the UK, based on the results of a survey with over 2,500 respondents from 83 countries, people are keen to travel again but, unsurprisingly, some are still grappling with fears and uncertainty.

“Ultimately, people want to get away and get moving again. However, they need to ‘re-learn’ how to travel. It’s a question of remembering what they need to do and learning all about the many new protocols and requirements.

The goal is to get these enthusiastic returning travellers over those first hurdles so that they can come home realising that it wasn’t so difficult after all.”

What are travellers looking for when choosing a destination and making their bookings?

ATTA’s survey shows that people are placing high importance on being fully vaccinated themselves when it comes to boosting their own traveller confidence.

“Along with getting the jab, it’s clear that flexible terms and conditions and clearly-communicated COVID safety protocols from travel suppliers on the ground are all key for people when deciding where to go, what to do, and when to book,” says Chris.

Greg Seymour, Director and Owner at Curo Risk Solutions, believes that staff vaccinations are also critical, particularly for international travellers.

“Now that the local vaccination programme is rolling out at a faster pace, we’re seeing more international guests flying in, and it’s a fact that they’re asking questions about staff vaccinations. It matters to them. They’re also seeking out greater peace of mind by staying at open-air lodges situated in low-risk areas,” he says.

Guy Stehlik, CEO at BON Hotels, also insists that staff vaccinations play a role in keeping prospective guests relaxed and confident, and he’s pleased that most local hotels and lodges are taking a proactive approach to getting their staff vaccinated.

“Currently, around 75 – 80% of employees within the South African travel sector have received the jab. Now it’s all about communicating this. So far, we’re doing a good job on splash pages on websites and social media. It’s definitely an important consideration for most leisure travellers.”

Speaking of communication, all experts agree that it clear, consistent communication remains a key part of recovery across the industry. However, it’s about maintaining a delicate balance between conveying safety and still capturing the fact that traveller experience and enjoyment is a top priority.

Getting your ‘house’ in order

It’s clear that travellers know what they want during these uncertain times. From here, it’s up to travel suppliers to figure out exactly what they have to accomplish on the route to getting their ‘house’ in order to meet demand.

Andre du Toit, Director at SATIB, reminds travel suppliers not to forget about the importance of risk mitigation. According to Andre, there’s plenty that travel suppliers can do to get started in this regard before they reach to insurance. Staff are vital in managing risk – and probably a little rusty – so start by refreshing staff on safety and emergency protocols; conducting thorough induction for new staff; re-looking at orientation and check-in procedures; ensuring operating equipment is serviced; and that all compliance checks are done.

However, there are aspects of risk mitigation where a DIY approach simply isn’t recommended, particularly in terms of ensuring that the establishment’s insurance is sorted – and incident management.

“Insurance can be complex so the best advice would be to connect with a specialist tourism broker. Start by reviewing your existing covers, and let them conduct a quick needs analysis, including any changes that have taken place within your establishment since the start of the pandemic,” says Andre. “Left in the hands of a specialist this is an easy task. Most important covers are those that relate to your operational assets and those that cover any liability exposure you might have. Chances are your vehicles need to move back onto comprehensive cover, liability limits probably need to be re-instated or increased and new risks such as cyber cover will need to be explained and understood.”

“Further to this,” says Andre, “It’s vital to subscribe to an incident management service. Incident management is a specialised space, and all travel suppliers need help navigating it safely. It’s about so much more than simply dispatching an ambulance or contacting the police during times of need. Incident management specialists will also provide remote advice in those critical and early stages for both medical and security incidents, handle legal representation, and sort out crisis communication and reputation management from a PR perspective. It’s not a good idea to try to manage it yourself, as you’ll expose your establishment to massive liability and potentially devastating consequences,” Andre adds.

It’s obvious that the travel landscape has transformed significantly over the past 18 months, and this has resulted in a change regarding the potential risks that travel suppliers are exposed to.

“New risks to keep in mind include guests leaving without paying, guests leaving with hotel belongings, and guests using fraudulent credit cards. Be sure to chat to your broker and ensure that these particular extensions are included in your new policy,” he warns.

As far as Guy is concerned, getting one’s ‘house’ in order is a collective industry effort and revolves around two things: getting the country’s ‘fully vaccinated’ status up to 50% as soon as possible (and meeting the government’s goals by December) to demonstrate that South Africa is a safe destination, and getting all business restrictions lifted as soon as possible.

“We also all need to do everything in our power to avoid that fourth COVID wave, knowing it’s our industry that will be hit the hardest if the fourth wave predictions come to light.”

Greg highlights how it’s all about getting the awareness going again, especially at hotels and lodges that have not been operating with a full staff compliment for some time now.

“Each department within a hotel must understand the standard operating procedures. The staff must understand the intricacies of check in and the importance of guests filling in indemnity forms, conducting regular safety briefings, and placing warning signage throughout the property. The great thing is that most of this doesn’t cost money – but you’ve got to put in the time.”

Final pearls of wisdom

To conclude, the experts had a few final pearls of wisdom to share with local travel suppliers as they gear up for the summer. Chris insists on prioritising communication.

“Make sure that you’re communicating clearly. After all, you’re speaking to people who are unsure about what’s going on and are looking for peace of mind. Effective communication will go a long way toward building traveller confidence and getting returning travellers over those initial hurdles to normalise travel once again.”

Guy cautions not to forget about the basics.

“Don’t become overwhelmed with a lengthy to-do list. Ensure that the basics are covered first from a safety and COVID protocols perspective – and maintain your pricing flexibility as the market re-establishes itself!”

Greg advises travel suppliers to rely on common sense.

“Get your house in order and do your risk assessments. Let common sense rule.”

Finally, Andre encourages reaching out to specialist brokers who are tourism ‘sussed’.

“Re-visit your policies with a specialist broker. Now’s your chance. Don’t wait until it gets too busy. Don’t wait for the period of renewal. Reach out now, conduct a needs analysis and get yourself sorted so you can focus on what you do best – providing guests with memorable experiences!”

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