As the beginnng of the new-normal dawns in South African domestic leisure travel, we can collectively take that much needed sigh of relief as we celebrate a milestone. Having spent well over 100 days in lockdown I believe South Africans are curious, if not eager, to explore their country once again. With new eyes.
Even if just intra-provincially for now.
Driven by a curious mind and, with a persistent thought in my head as to what tourism in the time of COVID-19 would look like, I recently headed for a late week staycation at The Capital Hotels and Apartments. The Capital on The Park in Sandton was to play home to me for two nights as I explored my literal bakyard.
What Am I Doing?
Arriving at the hotel, which has been operating since the start of lockdown as an isolation facility and catering to business travellers, I was somewhat apprehensive. This was my first night out since lockdown was declared here in South Africa, I was leaving my safe zone behind and venturing forth into a new world. Literally.
Would I be putting my health at risk at a time when infection rates were on everyones mind; as unending theories continue to be sprouted about the peak and long term prognosis for COVID-19? Everyone’s an expert these days. In the haze of thoughts that invaded my mind, I found myself welcomed at The Capital by Jennifer. Attending to security duties, Jennifer is one of the friendliest people I have met in some time. The remainder of my stay would be peppered with an abundance of “hellos” and “are you enjoying your stay” from Jennifer, which came straight from the heart.
As I would soon find out, the staff at The Capital are very friendly. I took Jennifers welcome as the warm gesture it was intended to be and felt a sense of peace about my stay, my previous thoughts soon a forgotten thing of the past.
How It Works
Checking in was a relatively simple and straight forward process. A little more paperwork is now needed to ensure protocols, adopted by the hotel, are adhered to. And to ensure we all remain safe during my stay – hotel staff and myself.
I shot a quick video of my stay at The Capital to show you fiirst hand what you can expect.
It Really All Comes Down To You (And Me)
President Cyril Ramaphosa has made this point in several of his addresses lately and I couldn’t agree more. COVID-19 will only be overcome where we have a can do attitude. New regulations govern what we are permitted to do and how we go about doing it. Domestic leisure travel is certainly no exception.
A good deal of patience will serve you well. Protocols like recording your daily temperature, a maximum of two people in any lift at one time and breakfast in your room are in place to protect you. And the staff who, as frontline tourism workers, potentially expose themselves to an increased risk of COVID-19 infection if we don’t all work together.
Expect your room to look a little sparse, as many nice-to-have decor items have been removed. If it is pourous, the guys at The Capital have removed it from general access spaces and the rooms. Doing so reduces the risk of contamination due to an inability to effectively clean and sanitise the space. Everything is done for a very well thoughtout reason.
What Made The Difference To Me?
Without a doubt the staff.
From my first encounter with Jennifer upon arrival to a quick chat to Rebecca who serviced my room and the myriad staff members in between, I felt constantly reassured by the staff. They were confident in what they were doing and were just that little more patient in their execution.
Speaking through a mask is not always that easy.
There was a sense of excitement in their engagement with guests, borne from an appreciation of business flowing through their place of work I thought. Not many similar service providers in this industry have been so lucky.
The quirky approcah to business for which The Capital is known certainly helps to smooth the transition from the stay I was used to, to the current reality. The online ordering system for meals is a great innovation and resulted in fantastic meal options. Waffles for breakfast – why not! A quick scan of the QR code and Bob’s your non-gender-specific uncle, the knock is at your door.
This decadence and mid-week spoil went down an absolute treat!
Do Your Part
My mind kept going back to the staff members during my stay, both those front and back of house. Especially the increased risk they were exposing themselves to and the potential for very real consequences should the re-opening of domestic leisure tourism not be held to the highest level of industry health and safety protocols.
Bear that in mind as you begin exploring our glorious country. Do the industry a solid and be a responsible traveller. Do it for Jennifer and the other 1,5m people who work in tourism.
Let’s work together towards the re-opening of tourism in South Africa, both domestic and foreign, at the appropriate time. The guys at South Africa Is Travel Ready are doing a phenomenal job and well worth your support.
For a review of domestic leisure tourism and related regulations under lockdown level 3 see this article written by my friend Di Brown aka The Roaming Giraffe, which she wrote for Biz Community.