Last week I attended an event intended to re-ignite the much affected, struggling tourism industry.
There was so much positive energy in the room.
I felt that much of it had to do with an appreciation for surviving the last 20 months, but also for the promise of a good tourist season ahead.
Last week the tourism industry was looking forward to basking in some much needed light shining at the end of a very dark tunnel.
But on Friday, with the announcement that South African scientists had identified a new Covid-19 variant, everything came crashing down.
The UK was the first to close their borders to us and were followed by many other countries.
The fact that the variant had been detected in other countries, with far higher Covid numbers than SA, and yet no travel restrictions had been put in place on them, is a story for another day.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday night and by that time, some countries were reconsidering their travel restrictions, but the damage had already been done.
Many tour guides, Airbnbs, hotels and restaurants had already reported thousands of rands worth of cancellations.
The reality is that the tourism industry, as well as many other industries, are once again going to be hard hit by what has happened.
So as always, my appeal to you is to support our local SMMEs in this difficult time.
Here is how you can support our small businesses:
Practise patience: If you are prepared to stand in a queue in a large retail store, be considerate to the fact that small businesses can’t afford huge staff contingents, and show some patience.
Don’t ask for a discount: Do you ask for discounts from the giant retail stores and service providers? I didn’t think so!
So don’t do it with small businesses. Respect the time, effort and expertise of those in our communities.
Share things on social media, and by word of mouth: Not everyone is financially able to buy from a small business, but that does not mean that you can’t support them in other ways.
Share promotional posts on social media and tell people if you’ve come across a good product or service.
Good food takes time: Many in our communities have shown true entrepreneurial spirit, followed their passion and opened a food business.
If you are prepared to wait at the Waterfront for your meal, then please be prepared to do the same at a community eatery.
Visit pop-up stores and local markets: Getting local businesses in one place, over a short period of time, offers consumers a larger variety of products and choice.
Support these efforts of organisers and vendors.
Become a tourist in your own city: Many tour guides have one-day packages that can show you your city through a different lens.
Also, it’s great to just sit back and relax and take the scenic route – even if it’s just for a day.
Be kind: Everyone is fighting some sort of battle right now.
From koesiestes and lekka meals, to couture fashion, website design and awesome tours – all of it can be found around us.
I encourage you to seek out our community businesses and support them.
I will never tell you to accept below standard services and products, but I sincerely believe that the majority of our community-based businesses offer the same, if not better services and products than the large chain stores.
So if our businesses are creating employment and servicing our needs, whilst complying with Covid-19 protocols, please support them.
It’s the right thing to do.