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It is the Age of the Smart Traveller

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  • How to balance the thrill of unwinding, travelling and exploring with caution
  • Scenic views, comfort and amenities have to be blended with health and safety

The unmatched beauty of the Chobe River, with its ever-breathtaking views that add to the panorama of nature can be difficult to resist for the traveller. But safety and health protocols reign supreme as we approach the age of the smart traveller.

With the devastation of the international tourism industry in 2020, hoteliers and academics are still debating just how far the damage will be for the coming years. However, what is equally critical is just how much today’s holidaymaker should adjust. Should there even be any travel at all in the festive holidays that are fast approaching or Christmas should be spent indoors with the same family? There is a limitation to just how much pleasure one may derive from images of past holidays and artworks of places far and away.

We are in November. Exhaustion, fatigue and burnouts are a reality at 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 Tourism Management Journal 2020 points to an emerging paradigm of the smart traveller by identifying critical areas for further study in order to promote the industry whilst promoting safety. Thrashing this out under the topic “Critical Discussion Agenda for Tourism,” the journal says these include interrogating changes in destination image as impacted by infections, change in tourist behaviour and a change in residents’ behaviour 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’s (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 the 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 the external environment contaminating the bubble. Their discomfort in this ‘tailored’ environment – a form of safe zone quarantine – is a pleasure to watch. A case in point was the recently ended NBA season which saw Lebron James and Lakers lift the season’s spoils.

Hoteliers who are at the front and centre of providing the safest of environments, will attract the smart traveller 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 that their environment is well protected. Equally, the business traveller and holidaymaker should take the requisite steps in protecting their own safety as well by following the same exacting standards that hotels are being exposed to.
Says the Managing Director of Cresta Marakanelo, Mokwena Morulane: “This past Independence holiday we experienced a high number of domestic travellers in places such as Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Even before arrival, guests wanted assurance of the hygiene standards at our properties. Once we took them through our rigorous Standard Operating Procedure guidelines, this allayed their concerns and they checked in with us.”

The smart traveller 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- hanging dynamics,” said Morulane, whose company runs Botswana’s biggest chain hotel chain. “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 thus spread of the COVID- 19 virus.”

Considering Cresta Hotels was one of the first hospitality companies to adopt health protocols and hire expertise of medical professions before the spike of the virus in Botswana, their commitment to regulations and customer safety is a big winner for the smart traveller.

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