Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Picture: iStock.
There’s a fine line between being locked down by the state and locked up by it.
Right now, most South Africans are suffering from imprisonment heebie-jeebies: how else do you explain the outrage that erupted from the public when the government announced it was releasing a host of prisoners to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in overcrowded jails?
Why should they go free while we remain confined, seemed to be the underlying feeling among generally law-abiding citizens.
Like any prisoners, people who are restricted to their homes and (if they’re fortunate) workplaces are beginning to dream of life “outside the wire” – of freedom – once their releases (or in this case, paroles) are announced and confirmed.
As with any parolee, freedom is contingent on good behaviour. This, hopefully, is a lesson we are continuing to learn under lockdown.
There is no doubt the tourism and hospitality industries will take years to recover from the effects of the pandemic. There are, however, sectors within these industries that are more susceptible to earlier recovery … provided they take into account some of the new realities of life.
The first inescapable truth is that most forms of international travel are out for the foreseeable future, primarily because travellers rely on high-volume (ie close proximity) forms of transportation to reach foreign destinations.
Like it or not, South Africans are going to have to discover their own country, as well as those of their near neighbours (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique etc). They’re also going to travel in the same fashion they have been practising for the past two months – isolated from strangers (anybody who is not immediate family).
Road trips will be the new holiday vogue, simply because planes, trains, boats and buses possess a high risk of second- or third-wave exposure to the virus. Destinations will need to be carefully researched: do they offer any degree of social distancing?
They will have to avoid areas where people are forced into close proximity, such as lifts, corridors and buffet-style dining areas. This rules out many of the larger accommodation facilities … something that seems to have occurred to Tsogo Sun when it recently announced the imminent closure of more than 30 of its (mostly urban) hotels.
What remains are those establishments that offer guests intimacy or privacy in the form of chalets, rondavels, cottages and semi-detached maisonettes, or duplexes. I believe these businesses could boom.
By now, I should have painted a picture of a typical SANParks-style resort or (if you can afford it) a private game reserve where guests are offered seclusion as part of their exclusivity package.
I know the image of people wearing face-masks on open-topped game vehicles might seem farcical but it’s been a reality among oriental tourists for some years now. Sleeping arrangements is one aspect of social distancing, catering is another.
Self-standing and semi-detached accommodation often includes self-catering facilities (again, think SANParks) but not every household caterer’s idea of a dream holiday is swapping one stove and sink for another. It’s one reason why national parks have restaurant facilities.
One trend we’ve begun seeing during lockdown is restaurants offering deliveries. The big franchise operations have been doing this for years and I see no reason why those situated in the larger camps of game reserves shouldn’t do the same.
It’s room service written large. Deliveries in large camps, such as Skukuza in the Kruger National Park or Addo’s Main Camp, might be a bit of a logistical hassle but the alternative is a still kitchen and closed doors. Semi-urban parks, such as Wilderness, could also allow deliveries from local restaurants.
I can see smaller establishments that have on-site restaurants offering a ‘home-dining’ option. One example that comes immediately to mind is Sneezewoods at one of my personal favourite places, Chrislin African Lodge, just outside Addo, offering a “home-dining” option.
Guests are asked to inform restaurant management the morning whether they will be dining that evening. They can then add the option of allowing them to dine at their cottage or rondavel, none of which are more than 150m from the kitchen. A dining table can be set on the lawn or stoep, complete with citronella candles for ambience.
I think a candle-lit dinner under the stars, accompanied by the music of orioles and owls, would be the perfect antidote to the lockdown blues.
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