The unmatched beauty of the Chobe River, with its ever-breathtaking views that provide a panoramic view of nature undiluted and the charm of beautiful night life from well-appointed city hotels are no longer the only criteria for choosing destinations of travel. Safety and health protocols reign supreme as we approach a new age – the age of the smart traveler.
With the devastation of the international tourism industry in 2020 - hoteliers, academics and pracademics are still debating just how far the damage will be for the coming years. However, what is equally critical is just how much should today’s holiday maker adjust. Should there even be any travel at all in the upcoming festive holidays? Should Christmas be spent indoors with the same nuclear family? There is a limitation to just how much pleasure one may derive from images of past holidays and Pinterest artworks of places far and away.
We are in November. Exhaustion, fatigue and burn outs are a reality this time of the year. Sunday evenings present a whole new mental battle in preparation for another week of work. How much of that mental fatigue can be reversed by Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa’s well-manicured gardens in a haven of green and rich bodies of water? The crisp, fresh Chobe river air presents an allure akin to the magic majesty of the Victoria Falls not so far away. Just what is the right call in the current day?
The Tourism Management Journal (2020) in what is termed a ‘critical discussion agenda for tourism’ highlights an emerging paradigm of the smart traveler by pointing out critical areas for further study in order to promote the industry whilst promoting safety - these include interrogating changes in destination image as impacted by infections, change in tourist behavior and a change in residents’ behavior with regards to today’s challenges. This may include understanding the number of infections in any given area, health protocols, medical care, road access and the destination (hotel) commitment to safety; which are all now a critical part of the new way to travel.
This is one of the many frameworks being explored in diverse markets with global thinkers publishing and contributing new knowledge and ready to solve the world’s biggest enemy at the moment. With a template of one of the rare success stories against COVID-19, some countries are capitalizing on the health balance sheet to position themselves for the future. China is reported to be back to economic growth with fears of the pandemic having been squarely put on freeze button.
The tourism industry can pick a page from other areas such as sport. In some economies what is termed the ‘bubble’ concept is being explored in different sporting sectors. A COVID-19 free environment is created in the bubble by ensuring all participants are tested and kept within the safety bubble in order for athletes to compete in sports without fear of external environment contaminating the bubble. Their discomfort in this ‘tailored’ environment - a form of safe zone quarantine - is our pleasure as we watch on. Case in point the recently ended NBA season which saw Lebron James and Lakers lift the season spoils.
Hoteliers who are a front and centre of providing the safest of environments, will attract the smart traveler who will actively evaluate, interrogate and challenge the nature of the service beyond courtesy but into something much more critical - health and safety. It is the primary role of the hotelier to guarantee the best they can to ensure their environment is well protected. Equally, the business traveler and holiday-maker should take the requisite steps in protecting their own safety as well by following the same exacting standards hotels are being exposed to.
“This past Independence holiday we experienced a high number of domestic travelers in places such as Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Even before arrival, guests wanted assurance of the hygiene standards in our properties. Once we took them through our rigorous Standard Operating Procedure guidelines, this allayed their concerns and they checked in with us,” says Mokwena Morulane, CML’s Managing Director.
The smart traveler chooses properties that base their protocols on science and of course their sense of adventure.
“Our industry is continually disrupted by new trends, innovations, and ever- changing dynamics. Staying relevant to these emerging tourism trends can help keep the industry afloat. COVID-19 is one of the most significant challenges the tourism and hospitality sector has faced in decades. The latest trend in our industry that we have to swiftly catch up with, is the introduction of automation services so that guests and staff members experience a touchless experience which will reduce the touching of surfaces and spread of the COVID- 19 virus,” he notes.
Considering Cresta Hotels was one of the first hotels to adopt health protocols and hire expertise of medical professions before the spike of the virus in-country; their commitment to regulations and customer safety is a big winner for the smart traveler.