If you are an outdoor junkie and have missed the scenic views of mountains, wildlife and flowing rivers – you still can reignite your passion, albeit with a face mask, sanitiser and a little physical distancing.
The culture of tourism in South Africa and globally have changed as explorers now need to keep Covid-19 in mind.
Tourist sites have started showcasing their plans to ensure outdoor activities are done in adherence with protocols that are in place to reduce the transmission of the virus, and Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has started inspecting the measures.
Kubayi-Ngubane spent the weekend visiting sites in Parys in the Free State and Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng.
The minister’s visits were part of her campaign of getting South Africans to start visiting their favourite local tourism destinations again.
After over four months of shutting their doors owing to the pandemic, all tourist attractions in the country are now permitted to operate under lockdown Level 2, including theme parks, nature and game reserves, and entertainment centres.
But tourists have to adapt to some changes, as life jackets are being sanitised before river rafting, while quad bike handles and paintball guns are also being sprayed with disinfectant – just a few examples of precautionary measures being taken by operators.
During her visit at the Riverside Sun hotel in Vanderbijlpark on Saturday, Kubayi-Ngubane said she hoped the measures in place would give local tourists the confidence to get out again.
But she said it wouldn’t be easy for the sector to pick up again and start making money – but believed some ideas could help.
“Globally, the culture of tourism or travelling has changed. If previously somebody was just an outgoing person, now they are worried and cautious.
“The reality of people being scared to [get] the virus is real. There are certain things that people will now not do. The traveller of yesterday is not the same as today,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Following a Friday afternoon of quad biking, paintball shooting and river rafting, the minister was joined by South African Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona in the Vaal on Saturday.
Ntshona said the sector was hopeful that business would again boom locally following the announcement of Level 2, giving permission for theme parks and other attraction sites to operate.
“It’s been a long four months, and so we are very grateful to see tourism re-emergence again. In the recovery part, I think it’s important to note that tourism is actually a perishable product.
“When you talk of recovery, it’s essential getting on the same trend that you had previously,” the CEO said.
The minister embarked on inspections at various sites from Friday where she interacted with owners on their plans to return to business following a four-month break.
Riverside Sun hotel management informed the minister that they were still closed as they worked toward ensuring all loose ends were tied in creating a safer space.
At Real Adventures Base Camp, staff demonstrated to Kubayi-Ngubane how quad bikes would be sanitised before use, as well as their screening process.
Kubayi-Ngubane is also set to visit other provinces as she launches Tourism Month in September.
Although the minister said she was satisfied with the work the sites had put in place, she believed the road to recovery would be a long one.
“Until we are able to have tourism fully operational with international markets, then we can safely say we are indeed in recovery,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane acknowledged that it would take some time for all sites to be 100% compliant.Lack of finance had also been another worry, she added.
She told News24 that the visits had been an eye-opening experience for her. She had been able to spot gaps and would be advising on how the sites could improve to ensure safety to clients.
“Like the issues of people having to pick up the costs of it and all that. Currently, as we are sitting, we do not have the money.
“But one of the things I thought would be easier for us to do is the issue of, for example, how people get in and register at queues. I’m saying, shouldn’t we get an [application], where you complete issues regarding health requirements upfront and when you arrive at reception you sign and go,” she said.
The minister said all sites would regularly be monitored and that individuals not adhering to the regulations would be arrested, adding that the sector had been urged to ask for clarity on information if they were not sure on how to go about their services amid the health crisis.