'Please support local tourism': What the coronavirus means for SA’s travel influencers

2020-03-17 16:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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You're going to start seeing a lot less of those beautiful sunset pics on exotic beaches on your Instagram feed these days. 

It's a scary time for many industries as restrictions are put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus - and this has been especially felt by those in the travel industry. 

READ: MSC Cruises in SA to cancel remaining trips for the season 

Some influencers - especially in the travel sphere - have continued business as normal, filling Instagram with the usual travel inspiration. But according to Bloomberg, many new posts are old photos as their partnership trips keep getting cancelled. 

The South African tourism industry is also taking a hit, especially after President Cyril Ramaphosa instituted travel restrictions, and with it the livelihoods of local travel influencers and writers are also jeopardised. Beyond their social media presence, some also work as tour guides and have experienced a few cancellations.

"I am concerned, but we all need to get creative, promote domestic travel and ready for a different reality when it's over," commented Di Brown, known as Roaming Giraffe, currently travelling through Thailand. 

Another agency of influencers - Team Saint - has also had to postpone their upcoming project of travelling to every town in South Africa.

This has been a common sentiment among others - their content stream needs to shift, focusing on domestic destinations. For example, our national parks will remain open, lauded as 'excellent opportunities for isolation'.

Here are some of their comments. 

ALSO SEE: What's it like backpacking through Asia during the coronavirus outbreak 

Jared in CPT - Jared Ruttenberg 

"While all areas of society are going to feel the storm and aftershocks of the coronavirus, my heart goes out specifically to the tourism industry around which most of my work as a travel journalist is centred - over 1.5 million of us who are at the vanguard of serving, celebrating and promoting our country."

"Where it is safe and permissible, my encouragement is to please support local tourism. Particularly those who would have had to cancel international travels - we’re blessed with an incredible country that deserves to be explored and celebrated. Again, keep it safe and adhere to all safety precautions and suggestions."

"For travel writers, bloggers and influencers, we have a voice to acknowledge what is happening around us, keeping abreast of updates and developments, but also continuing to share stories of hope and encouragement.

"Perhaps guests may not be able to currently visit the places we profile, but more than ever these establishments will need our support. I’ve had to change some of my content strategy to focus more on domestic travel, giving emphasis to the hidden gems that are within our reach and can be safely visited."

"One small advantage for the local market is that there will be increasing specials for local travellers. By taking advantage of these specials we’re not only exploring and celebrating our country, but also making sure that the jobs of those in the hospitality industry are not lost. 

SEE: Isolated spots in SA's mountains if you want to escape the coronavirus 

The Incidental Tourist - Dawn Jorgensen

"As I write this, I have a scratchy throat and the sniffles, and despite the fact that a change in season is almost certainly to blame, I cannot help but be nervous. For my health and that of the more vulnerable people around me, especially in South Africa where most of the population doesn’t have access to good healthcare."

"The past weeks have closed in on the world in an unfamiliar way that has brought much re-evaluating of choices and seen sometimes war-like precautions being enforced by governments as they do all that they can to protect their citizens – and the further spread of the ever-threatening COVID-19."

"I agree with these measures, but they come at a price."

"As a travel writer and blogger that works part-time in tour operating, I am feeling the impact on my industry and the very real ramifications caused by countless client cancellations. As companies reassess their revised bottom lines, retrenchments, hotel closures and strain on restaurants are having a far-reaching snowball effect on the country’s economy and global markets."

"I have just cancelled a much-anticipated trip to Tasmania, putting all other travel on hold as we wait out the severity of the situation. But how do I keep making a living? With lockdown I have no doubt that there will be much reading of magazines, blogs and books – many with a travel theme as people continue to dream about the next trip they will take ‘when this is all over’ – and on the back of that I will continue to write and share.

"But the narrative needs to change. The days of shamelessly promoting travel are over. The messaging, reminder of the fragility of the world and the impact our movements have on the places and communities we visit needs to be the focus.

"As a long-standing advocate for conscious travel, my work will continue, even if the volume of opportunities drastically declines – and COVID-19 will likely be the catalyst that brings about more sustainable practices.

"It is a time to reflect, rethink and redefine the way we travel – and more so, the way we promote it. Something I will continue to do."

ALSO SEE: SA's national parks to remain open as 'excellent opportunities for isolation' 

Team Saint - Daniel Oschadleus

"We will be continuing with the conceptualisation and planning of the 'The South African Towns Tour' and its various legs, and we will also be using this time to generate and disseminate content aimed at generating awareness about this endeavour and what it eventually aims to achieve."

"We have also reached out to our network of 105 influencers, majority of whom will participate in the tour upon relaunch, encouraging them to continue creating content in their personal capacity that showcases South Africa in a creative light, zooming in on its diverse beauty, and telling the story of our country's unique ability to unite in the face of adversity, overcome challenges and always come out stronger."

"We would like to especially thank the Team Saint influencers, our content team led by Tyronne Anthony Clarke, our tourism partners, travel sponsors and our product and merchandise sponsors - all who have agreed to remain committed to making this endeavour a reality once the State of National Disaster is over and it is completely safe to travel domestically again."

"It goes without saying that the SA tourism sector is going to suffer major losses in this time and they will require aggressive marketing and PR rehabilitation once this blows over."

READ MORE: These influencers want to visit every town in South Africa