GEORGE NEWS & VIDEO - The Garden Route and the Klein Karoo are open for business. This was the message of Andrew Rogers, president of Skål International Garden Route*, at the organisation's year-end function last week at Victoria Bay.
The function was also a time to reflect on the challenges the tourism industry faced this year.
In conversation with George Herald, Rogers said that the tourism industry is battling, but still standing. He is aware of several businesses - not only travel companies - that had to close their doors. Places such as restaurants also feel the loss of income, which is exacerbated by additional costs such as masks, sanitising and cleaning. Without some form of backup, businesses are unlikely to survive.
Before Covid-19, the industry made its money in the international tourism market. Now, many of these people can't come to South Africa and even if they want to, they face worries such as being in enclosed spaces with many other people on the aircraft and in public airports. In addition, they have to adhere to safety precautions and wear masks.
Rogers said this is the ideal opportunity for South Africans to explore our own country, which has plenty of space. Those who were planning to go abroad on holiday could see this as an opportunity to come and see what the Garden Route has to offer, which will also support the local tourism industry.
Rod Rutter, a member of Skål and a consultant in the travel and hospitality industry, said he is encouraged by the response they had so far in promoting the area.
"We take a holistic approach. It is about the whole of the Garden Route."
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He said there are signs that the industry is picking up in the Garden Route, which is why he is optimistic about the tourism industry in 2021. According to him, tourism is the biggest earner of foreign exchange and the greatest employer of jobs globally.
Some 750 000 travellers pass through George Airport annually.
* Skål is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world that promotes global tourism.
It currently has approximately 15 000 members in more than 350 clubs throughout 83 nations.
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