We see all over social media that people use the Hashtag “Wanderlust” and often quote the latest dictionary as referring to the “desire to travel”. Personally I prefer the word “need” because, for me, travelling is a primal need like food and water. Nothing like a pandemic to make one housebound for while! Google analytics updated my distance travelled as 14 km, compared with my year on year distance of over 3000 km in the same time frame. And that was with my mobile phoned turned off on all my flights. I can’t imagine how many times I might have circled the Earth. Thankfully, I do  feel responsible and have plenty of spekboom planted in the garden.

I grew up in a travel industry family, my mother having spent most of her working life as a traditional travel agent, and then later on working for number of international airlines. I had been half way around the world before I had a holiday to the Kruger National Park!  The joy of those industry perks was wonderful in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, and as a child there was nothing better than packing our cases and heading to the airport, not entirely sure of the destination we were heading to,  as it all depended on the space we might get on the plane, and whichever connecting flight we could find out of one of the airline hubs.  The sights and sounds of exotic cities and street food, coupled with excursions and international hotels, was sure to instill a Wanderlust in me that would last a lifetime. It’s not much of a surprise that I have been in the South African tourism industry for over 30 years already, and that ultimately I would find my “ home”  in a Sales role with plenty of travel, both within the destination and into our source market.

I am feeling rather “ zoomed” out, after more than 5 months of travel bans. For me, there is nothing quite like the thrill of checking in for a flight, window shopping at the duty free stores and boarding a plane to a destination, whether it’s for business or leisure. Meeting new potential clients, catching up with existing partners, travelling with some of our preferred suppliers – all is sorely missed at the moment. I am all about the H2H elements of human to human contact and interaction, and the opportunities to put my EQ to the test.

When I allow myself a moment to daydream at my new work-from-home office space, my thoughts always move to the next business travel trip….. where am I headed? When will that be? Will I be in Italy or the United Kingdom, with our incredible Tesna and Ferruccio who fly our company flag and live our brand? Will I be on a super long flight to LAX, or a jam packed meeting schedule in Zurich? Perhaps a trip with one of our Market Managers to their source market while we network and explore fresh sales leads? And who can forget the train rides, the beautiful cities and villages where our trade partners are located, and the excitement of product updates, selling our brand South Africa, and the value of Tourvest Destination Management’s African Footprint? We all look forward to trade shows, both local and international, returning to their usual dates throughout our calendar. The arrival of our first agent educational post COVID will be like welcoming presidents and royalty back to our shores!

One can’t possibly talk about Wanderlust without mentioning some of the first few local places I have an absolute longing to return to, or visit for the first time in Southern Africa. My first wanderlust journey will surely take me to the iconic private lodges that surround the Greater Kruger National Park. Time and again, theses luxury lodges have proven their dedication to conservation, to the wildlife, and to the empowerment of communities that straddle these wilderness areas. More than ever, they have shown just how vital they are in the chain of responsible tourism, protection of wildlife from poaching, and the opportunities they provide for employment and education. In this brave new world we are entering in 2020 and beyond, these have to be some of the most idyllic places to relax, unwind, detox from digital, and reconnect with ourselves and with nature. Sleep out under the stars in one of More’s famous treehouses, immerse yourself in the bygone era of Selati Lodge, spoil your loved one at Kapama Karula’s luxury spa, or experience Mala Mala’s wildlife. Early morning wake up calls, followed by bush coffee and tracking leopard or wild dogs in those magnificent wide open spaces, is priceless.

Nothing makes me prouder than showcasing all that Southern Africa has to offer. I do what I love, and I love what I do. Bringing the world to our country, immersing people into the local experiences with true South Africans, is truly inspiring. We are a resilient nation and we have overcome so much more than just this pandemic. Tourism has taken me places, given me opportunities and successes, opened my mind to cultures, languages and people from around the world. I am privileged to work alongside some of our industry’s thought leaders, whose big picture strategies and future proofing are truly inspiring. A perfect home for my Wanderlust.

About the Author: Suzanne Benadie

Suzanne Benadie has been in the tourism industry for over 30 years, starting her career as a national tourist guide and tour director. This is where her passion for wildlife and conservation was fuelled from an early age.  Ensuring the responsible sustainability of tourism is at the very core of her work ethic and principles, and in her role as Sales and Marketing Director at Sense of Africa, South Africa, she drives the use of our aligned suppliers who share our values. Suzanne travels extensively within Southern Africa, and shares her experiences and knowledge of the destination with our trade partners, stakeholders and teams in our business. She is also a director and  current board member of SATSA, who are playing an active role in the recovery of tourism.

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