Terrence Rigby, of Terrence Rigby Transfers, says the thing he has missed most as a result of COVID has been taking tourists on journeys in his vehicle.
Rigby has been in the tourism transport industry since 2013 and has been contracted by several tourism businesses. With his small bus he has picked up thousands of travellers from OR Tambo and Lanseria International Airports and driven them to lodges and accommodations, ranging from hotels in Gauteng to game reserves in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“I really miss going on those long drives. Sometimes you’d spend the whole day driving, but it was never boring,” said Rigby, explaining that his passengers were always different.
“I had a lot of Dutch, British and American travellers. Once I even had a family from Mexico. For a lot of them it’s their first time in South Africa and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
He told Tourism Update that, before COVID-19, he was often so busy he would be working 24 hours a day. “Sometimes I’d even spend a few days with a particular group of travellers, driving them from lodge to lodge.”
That is a situation that Rigby particularly likes, as it means continuity for the travellers, which built trust in his company. “It also meant that sometimes we would get to stay over at those lodges, really beautiful five-star places. We were treated the same way as the guests, except we didn’t go on game drives.”
Rigby said he hardly needed to go on the game drives as he saw enough wildlife on the way to the properties. He said at one particular lodge there was a young elephant bull who would regularly charge at his vehicle. “He was like a naughty teenager trying to mess with me.”
It was moments like this that Rigby has missed over the last year. “The last year has been really difficult. I was lucky enough to have some work though.”
One of Rigby’s former employers recommended him to a company that needed staff transfers. “I’m grateful for the work and with nobody coming and going from any hotels I really needed it.”
As part of the private chartered transport industry, he has not received any financial support from government, despite his business not being fully operational.
“I’d really like to see international tourism coming back. It will have to start with the major airlines bringing more flights to South Africa and we will have to rebuild trust with our source markets.”
If the curfew implemented under lockdown level three was completely lifted, Rigby said he would be able to make money from South Africa’s domestic market too. “I offer a number of services and don’t want to be limited to airport transfers. I also do transport for sport and concert events, dinner events and more. It’s much better to have a diverse offering.”