Covid has impacted each and every one of us in our own way. It has been an extremely challenging time, but have we learnt anything?

One point I have made, mainly in jest, is hospitality does not have an “h” in Wine. Our passion is to wine and dine our guests and our travel partners. This is what we do and what we aim to sell. There really is no place for whining. Keeping that in mind, I have looked back at the last six months for things that moved me or made me take notice of our World.

Paul and the kids

As Covid became real for the travel industry (and not just that obscure virus from Asia) with the closure of borders, the challenge that presented itself was how would people and businesses re-act. Would we become insular, locked away in our homes and strategizing how we (I) will survive this best, or would we stand together and see how together we would overcome the challenges. From the very outset, it was a united effort. From accommodation establishments, car rentals, activity providers – the initial cry came out – postpone – don’t cancel. We are in this together. And the business partners united in largely waiving cancellation fees and trying to rebook guests. Who could have foreseen how long this would last. But the industry has united in its voice to Governments and its partners alike – we will work together, we will ensure we have the right protocols in place and we will open up for travel again..

Many sad things have happened during this period. We have lost many of our colleagues as the economic burden of very few to absolutely no bookings over a 6 month time frame have just been too much.  There are not many things worse than facing an employee to tell them their job is no longer secure, or worse, has become redundant. And it is equally sad when you get a farewell note from your partners whom you have been dealing with for years and who are not just trading partners, but friends.

But in this mass of frustration and anxiety, it is the resilience and humanity which has inspired me the most. From the outset, people have united to send out a common message. We are here for you, and regardless how long this takes, we will be waiting. Had anyone queried in January whether we could you survive with 6 months no revenue – a simple answer would have been “You are smoking your socks”. And yet, 6 months down, not only are we here, our partners are still here. And discussions about flexible terms and new ideas keep continuing.

The resilience of people is captured in that simple statement – it could be worse. For so many, the threat of Covid may be real, but for others it has already left an indelible mark in losing someone. Or losing something. We are on half pay (and often still on full time), but it could be worse, we could be unemployed. We have cut all our expenses, but it could be worse, we could have nothing. And so we soldier on – looking for the positives. I hear of a chicken braai – maybe cheaper meat, but a braai, in the open and outside, nonetheless.

And whilst we all “survive” on reduced salaries, unpaid leave or temporary unemployment – I see the Sense of Africa team go out of its way to assist those still less fortunate than themselves. It is slightly embarrassing to admit, but when I saw the effort of the team with the children of the kindergarten we promote and assist this last week, it brought tears to my eyes. The absolute joy and laughter – because we still can. The conversations on what we have to be grateful for and the decency to express our thanks. We must move away from the words like survive and say it as it is. It’s difficult, but we are ok. For most of us, we have had more family time, more simple pleasures and more thankfulness than at any other stage. I strongly suspect it is because we have stopped for a moment and looked at what we truly want and what we already have, and that it is not always necessary to keep accumulating more, when what we really needed was in front of us all along.

And so as I look back at this journey of the last six months, I am astounded at the goodwill of my fellow man, at the ability to compromise and come up with solutions, and the ability not to survive, but to keep moving forward whilst the Covid pandemic persists. The ability to share and do good, when what you yourself have is already less.

I have no idea how, or worse, when this pandemic and all its concomitant effects in lockdowns, border closures and restrictions will end, but I do know that we will beat this. I have learned on my journey that it is the simple things we take for granted that matter. Family, friends and health.  I have also learned that I am in the right career, as notwithstanding that tourism very probably has been the hardest hit industry economically, I have also learned that the first thing I will do when circumstances allow, is not focus on the next winning move in business, but get out there and travel. Live a little, laugh some more and share the experience.

Family photo with beautiful beach sunset

So my path has changed from where I set out in January 2020. It has opened my eyes to what truly matters. It has taught me to appreciate what I have and let go of always wanting more. It has opened my eyes to the fortitude of those people who have shown a depth and empathy for others that makes you extremely proud to be part of their team. It has taught me most succinctly our Covid cry – we are stronger, together.

I look forward to the next chapter in this journey – one where we actually get to move. And I now know we will be on this journey together.

Paul and Kira

About the Author: Paul Brinkmann

Paul Brinkmann is the joint Chief Operations Officer of Sense of Africa alongside Martin Botha, being responsible for the brand in all countries outside of South Africa. Paul has been with Sense of Africa for 17 years, at a time it was only operating out of Namibia. Paul defines himself as a travel enthusiast rather than a travel professional, as he feel travel is a passion more than a career, He travels regularly with his family and looks for exciting travel experiences and opportunities to share with others. As a moderate with both conservative and progressive viewpoints, a lawyer who left practice for tourism, his musings will range between cynical or amusing, depending on the topic. Paul lives in Namibia with his wife and four children.

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