Well, we certainly didn't see this coming... Travel and tourism launched into 2020 with optimism and energy, yet has ground to a painful halt. Uncertainty dominates the dialogue, both regarding the trajectory of the pandemic worldwide and the ability of the tourism sector to recover from its implications.

Although FTT does not profess to offer insights beyond those already on the table, the world has certainly been shaken to the reality of our interconnectedness and fragility. Also to the power of an individual and of a single business to make a real difference in their community, the power of the natural environment to bounce back, and the shared humanity that so many had forgotten.

We have been inspired - though not surprised - by the lengths to which the #FTTFamily has gone during the initial stage of the crisis to ensure that people are taken care of. We are convinced more than ever that industry will realise that these interpersonal connections - and ecosystem ones - have to be respected not just in times of crisis, but in every-day business.

 

This crisis has shone a light on many of the unFair Trade dynamics in the sector and the pause over the coming weeks gives us all time to reflect, to assess, and to redefine how we want travel and tourism to look going forward; to acknowledge the impacts we have; and to unpack the trade dynamics that need to be addressed. It has given us time to remember that humanity comes before commerce and that we need to look out for each other however we can. That is what friends and family do and we humbly salute the unity we have witnessed during this time.

FTT FAMILY RALLIES & REPURPOSES

No sooner had the global shutdown commenced than the Fair Trade Tourism Family started to accept the inevitable - that their tourism businesses would suffer catastrophic impacts. Bearing the burden of that knowledge did not, however, deter them from using any and every asset in their arsenal to do what comes naturally to a business that commits to Fair Trade Tourism principles: take care of its people.

From navigating the ever-changing goalposts set out under the UIF's COVID-19 TERS (temporary employee relief scheme) fund to fundraising to supplement residual salaries, staff were front of mind. Surrounding communities were right there too and FTT-certified businesses innovated and repurposed their operating environments to ensure that no one would be left behind.
Coffee Shack Backpackers on the Wild Coast and Umlani Bushcamp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve launched fundraisers to offset lost income (and tips) for their staff.
Coffee Shack opted for a straight donation campaign on BackaBuddy and at the time of writing had raised over R20,000 of its R100k target.
Umlani opted for raffle ticket sales on Quicket, offering 2 prizes for a complimentary stay at Umlani to entice donations.
Previous customers have been targeted in both campaigns with reminders of the personal connections made over the years, all in the spirit of Ubuntu.
Uthando (Love) SA has always had a business model whereby traveller's philanthropy supports social development projects. During the pandemic lockdown, it has used the existing operating infrastructure in place to ensure that projects in most urgent need and those in a position to alleviate some of the lockdown pressures were recipients of its stepped up drive for this philanthropy.

At the time of writing, more than R1.2 million had been directed to organisations in the greater Cape Town area, including feeding schemes, sustainable agriculture projects and food gardens, animal welfare organisations, old age homes, and more.
Support has come both from from the travel-trade and from travellers who have experienced Uthando's model through project tours in the past and connected with the spirit of the organisation and the people whose lives are impacted.
Spier has continued to support its partnerships with local communities, as it has done for many years. At this time, food was deemed the most urgent need. Their initial focus was on the provision of food parcels and delivery, then rapidly shifted to ramping up sustainable food production in their gardens and providing sustainable food garden training and basic supplies to local people.
Sani Lodge Backpackers in KwaZulu Natal also focused on food security and has also been investing in building related value derived from its on site organic and home-made production to appeal to future travellers. Wholesome, healthy, natural ingredients on offer in a pristine, remote location will have certain appeal for the traveller of tomorrow.
Isibindi Africa Lodges teamed up in KwaZulu Natal, raising funds through the Isibindi Foundation to purchase and deliver needs identified as most urgent - masks, sanitisers and food parcels - to the communities surrounding its lodges.
This was quickly followed by an enterprise development initiative to produce masks! Women in local communities were taught how to sew protective, cloth face masks and the Isibindi teams donated material, equipment and their time to make sure it all came together.
Isibindi has also started a COVID-19 Courage Campaign fundraiser on www.givengain.com to provide emergency relief to the +/- 30,000 people living in the communities around its operations. At the time of writing, they had raised over R18,000 of the R700,000 target.
Bulungula Lodge took a different approach based on it context and completely repurposed the lodge: it was closed to travellers and converted into a Safe Home for the elderly and those deemed most vulnerable.  
The prospective residents all understood that although they would be free to leave the Safe Home at any time, they would not be able to return to the fenced compound of the lodge. Additional measures to prevent contamination included all goods entering the premises being sanitised, while operating considerations and staff training were informed by medical experts.

Although the Safe Home was a rather foreign concept for a culture accustomed to such an open, rural lifestyle, 71 local people were welcomed on "check-in" day!
During their stay, some of resident gogos were more than happy to get stuck into a range of activities to keep them occupied and to give back to their lodge, including weaving brand new mats from grass that grows around the property. They also repaired zips on the tents and took every opportunity to give thanks to the ancestors through song and dance.
With no time to waste, the Bulungula Incubator set up a fundraising campaign to offset some of the ongoing operational costs related to the Safe Home and then set its focus on the next task - creating educational videos in isiXhosa for the neighbouring communities.
Qulela le Corona! - a series of 8 educational videos in isiXhosa
Finally, Ubuntu Beds, which was co-founded by Once in Cape Town owner, Kim Whitaker, after herself recovering from COVID-19. Building on the experience of how other countries responded to the corona virus and, more importantly, what they would have done differently, Ubuntu Beds was set up to unite hospitality businesses (and their empty beds) with the healthcare professionals fighting COVID-19 on the front lines.
Accommodation providers can become an Ubuntu Beds partner by offering their rooms in the vicinity of health care facilities and agreeing to adhere to strict health and safety protocols. Health professionals can then avoid lengthy commutes to and from their shifts, affording them a bit more rest, while also avoiding the risk of bringing the virus home to their families.
At the time of writing, over 250 healthcare professionals had signed up for this initiative while just over 200 hospitality partners had joined the cause. But there are many more healthcare bums than there are beds in the Ubuntu database - can you help?
 
Play your part.
Achievements like these by the FTT family of tourism businesses affirm exactly what Fair Trade Tourism is all about - recognising that businesses are part of a broader community and that one always has a choice to do good. We hope that the sector re-set will show clearly that this is what the entire industry should be pursuing in terms of trade ethics going forward.

Thank you #FTTFamily for shining a light on the path.  
Image © to the respective tourism businesses and not-for-profit entities mentioned above.
We want to interrupt the dominant theme to bring your attention to cause for celebration: the #FTTFamily has, yet again, been honoured for its achievements at doing tourism in a way that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit. We thank them for leading the way and showing the world that Fair Trade Tourism businesses are here for good.

2020 INSPIRATIONAL AFRICA RT AWARDS

The 2020 Inspirational Africa Responsible Tourism Award winners were chosen from the accolade's gold winners over the past five years.
Typically, finalists are celebrated at an awards ceremony at WTM Africa; this year, however, they were announced online due to the "postponement"  of the event. They were, nonetheless, truly inspiring.
Of no surprise at all to us, FTT-certified businesses completely dominated the winners of the 2020 awards:
 
Judges Award

Benefiting Local People

Destination Award

Responsible Business
Spier (Gold)

Wildlife
Images © Grootbos Private Nature Reserve,
Transfrontier Parks Destinations, Uthando SA, Coffeebeans Routes
Images © !Khwattu San Culture and Education Centre, Spier,
Marine Dynamics, Dyer Island Conservation Trust
To learn why these were chosen by the judges, visit the Responsible Tourism Partnership website here.
Of course, there are a thousand questions being debated online, in every Zoom meeting, and in our dreams (or nightmares) about the future of travel and tourism. And the truth is that we will only have answers to them when the gift of hindsight is upon us...

Among the topics that have recurred on the myriad discussion boards and online groups, four are: what the future of travel will look like; whether sustainable tourism will emerge as the dominant path; how pricing should be set going forward; and how destinations are continuing to market in the meantime. Below, we've provided some links to interesting articles and discussions for you to peruse.

FUTURE OF TRAVEL
When and how might travel rebound?
~ Lonely Planet
What Travel Companies Will Need to Know About Consumer Mindset Post-Crisis
~ Skift
What Kind of Holidays Will We Take When We Can Travel Again
~ Condé Nast Traveller
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes: Coronavirus Testing Will Be Key for Airlines’ Recovery
~ Skift
So long, minibar: How the coronavirus will change hotel stays
~ NBC News
 

A MORE SUSTAINABLE PATH FOR TOURISM?
The future of travel and tourism
~ Responsible Travel
Surviving COVID-19 Through Tourism Resilience
~ Gaia Discovery
A future template for resilience? How we can repurpose tourism and support local communities
~ WTM Responsible Tourism Blog
Communities belong at the center of tourism. Now, we can make a choice to put them at the heart of recovery planning
~ The Travel Foundation
How can we ensure tourism’s recovery benefits those that most need it?
~ WTM Responsible Tourism Blog
Will the tourist hordes return? Coronavirus pandemic could be the end of overtourism
~ Traveller Australia

PRICING - TO SLASH OR NOT TO SLASH?
For those of you who missed the very candid and very public debate on Tourvest CEO Martin Wiest's Facebook page about cancellations, pricing going forward and whether the traditional trade structures have any place in the future of travel and tourism, too bad... it has been taken down.

It prompted some critical thinking and a very eloquent related communication from Transfrontier Parks Destinations in which they confirm that they will not be freezing rates for 2021 - a year in which occupancies will most certainly be lower than in pre-corona times.
Their reasons rest on the fact that with a business model that relies on being lean, the only place they could further reduce costs is to cut employment. They "will not be part of a business system that will take money from the marginalized of our country to offer a cheaper holiday to the tourists of the Wealthy North. There is a point at which we have to stand up and say, 'This is fair value based on our cost structure and we are going to walk the path of sustainability.'"
 

How to Price Accommodation Effectively Post COVID-19

~ Revenue Resolutions

Some Realizations – from the desk of a revenue specialist

~ TrevPAR World

TRAVEL LATER DESTINATION MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
Discover Puerto Rico developed a virtual getaway with online salsa classes, cocktail mixing and cooking demos to keep the destination top of mind for future visitors.
“We encourage travellers to daydream about our Island now and consider a visit later, when the time is right. In the meantime, we’re excited to join them in their living rooms for this virtual getaway,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Cape Town Tourism entices future travellers with the promise that the Mother City is "worth waiting for":
"You may be miles away right now and you may not be able to reach us, but we promise you that when you get here, you will experience exactly why Cape Town is worth waiting for."
Visit Scotland put together a video focusing on the age-old pining call that "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder". Watch it below:
"We are all learning how precious life is in these difficult times. Life is enjoying a meal with friends and family. Life is roaming in the mountains and glens or relaxing by the seaside. Life is the excitement of exploring a new city or town. No one knows what the future holds, but we are all in this struggle together. We must live apart to save lives, for now. Let this distance bring us closer. [...]"
Visit Rwanda's #VisitRwandaSoon campaign that features culture, history and nature
"We stand for unity, for being together.
That's why we know this difficult time will pass. ❤️" ‬

SA GOVERNMENT'S CORONA VIRUS RESOURCE PORTAL
The national government portal includes
  • an overview of relief mechanisms in place
  • guidelines for health and safety
  • toolkits and posters in a range of official languages
  • fitness guidelines during lockdown
  • tips on how to explain COVID-19 to kids
  • expert opinion on the virus
  • a full repository of related regulations
  • emergency hotline and Whatsapp support line numbers
Access the resource portal here. NB .co.za domains are required to post this website on their home page.

RESILIENT DESTINATIONS
Global news, stories and resource repository compiled to support a sustainable tourism response to COVID-19. Key resources include: 
  • Company policy examples
  • Hospitality in downturn - An Emergency Toolkit
  • Food Safety and Coronavirus: a comprehensive guide
  • Destination recovery plans
  • Keep Calm: A (Coronavirus) communicator's guide to crisis management
  • Travel Agent Survive and Thrive Plan
  • COVID-19 Guide for the Adventure Travel Industry
And many, many more. Access the website here.

UN WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION (UNWTO) COVID-19 RESPONSE
The UNWTO has compiled a number of resources, news articles and global reports related to the status and impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector. It can be accessed through the link below (click on the photo).
Two of the most recent reports released by the UNWTO include "COVID-19 - a global insight on travel and tourism impacts" (21 April 2020), accessed here
And "100% of Global Destinations Now Have COVID-19 Travel Restrictions" (28 April 2020), accessed here
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