Traveling Empty

Traveling Empty

Hey, You Northern Hemispheric Dude! Remember when spring turned to summer and for brief periods you forgot about the virus? Unmasked walks and picnics with friends?

Despite that not being such a good idea, your friends on the other side of the world are going through that right now, and just like you they’re pretending.

Despite worrying statistics governments from the equator like Kenya to the tip of the Cape of Good Hope are relaxing Covid restrictions. People are blooming like flowers.

College kids are the most colorful, conservatives have got to tan their abs, and falling as they have on the calendar of death small businesses are ready to revolt if restrictions are reinstated.

We all know where this is going. But my industry just can’t help itself.

“We’re Open!” screams one rep for a dozen African companies advises neglecting to detail fine enough the difficulties in entering each country. “TravelWithAPurpose,” another rep suggests grossly exaggerating the actual numbers of tourists arriving.

An excellent monthly survey by SafariBookings just published yesterday tells the real story:

More than 90% of sub-Saharan African tourist companies are continuing to experience more than a 75% decline in business, and more than a 75% decline in future bookings. In fact cancellations in November are as high or higher than in April.

Travelers aren’t dummies.

It’s trendy to believe that we ought not fault small businesses – which essentially are all travel vendors in sub-Saharan Africa – for white lying about the safety of traveling, now, or about just how many travelers are “coming back.”

Like in the United States, African small businesses are not protected by their governments. That, of course, is the principal fault. The US and Africa should follow the lead of Europe and Asia in protecting small business, guaranteeing at least portions of income. But because they don’t, all that’s left to a small business person is to lie and risk their own lives and the lives of their customers.

I don’t think we have to argue whether or not they should lie. Despite the bum rap they’ve been handed, they’re doing themselves more harm by promoting safety when it doesn’t exist. Travelers aren’t dummies. They aren’t going to come, now. Trying to entice them with false claims will turn them off, forever.

This is dam bad luck. But the best thing that a small tourist business can do is hunker down and wait it out. There are all sorts of hazards with doing this, and to be sure, the chances of going out of business are hastened.

Small businesses must realize that hanging on by the fingernails to a ledge of lies and disrespect for the safety of their customers insures a complete demise in the not so distant future, regardless how many few days of reprieve might be immediately gained.

Whether it’s a safari company or a barber shop, the longevity of a small business is a large part of earning our loyalties. Until places like America grow up, and until Africa becomes more developed, the bad luck of a pandemic will test the resolve and creativity of us small businesses well beyond anything that’s fair.

But that’s life in the trenches of America and Africa. If “future” is in your game, play it straight.