A South African couple working in tourism found a way to make an income during the country’s long and difficult lockdown by distributing a product that would ultimately help the industry they love.
At the beginning of 2020, husband and wife tourism veterans, Robert Verbruggen and Cheryl Mulder-Verbruggen, were looking ahead to a busy year. Robert, a national tourist guide, was fully booked until mid-2021 hosting German tour groups visiting South Africa, while Cheryl had a full schedule of coaching and tourism development work both in South Africa and The Netherlands.
When travel restrictions were implemented around the world, like many in the tourism industry the couple found themselves without work.
“While we’re resilient, we wanted to find an alternative way of earning and maintaining our links with the industry communities we enjoy being part of, especially as it became more and more apparent that lockdown wasn’t going to be short-lived,” said Cheryl.
They have both been in the industry since the ‘80s. Cheryl found her passion in the inbound industry and Robert found his German language capabilities a useful asset to guiding.
The couple’s career paths meant they weren’t often home together. “We had this year all planned out,” said Cheryl. “I would be between our cottage in Cape Town and work in The Netherlands, Robert would be on tour and my mother would be at our house in Montagu. We’d even worked out when Rob could come to The Netherlands and visit in between tours.”
When initial travel restrictions came into effect, Cheryl was in Europe but managed to make it home before South Africa’s borders closed. “Then it was Rob, my mother and myself all cooped up in the house in Montagu, which was not what we had planned!”
Changing their narrative
It was during the initial hard lockdown, cooped up with her husband and mother, when Cheryl made a narrative-changing trip to the optometrist. “I was so nervous trying on the frames, just picturing the little COVID germs on every one of them,” said Cheryl. The optometrist showed her the sanitising product he was using, which was a lightbulb moment.
Residual Barrier Technology (RBT), a range of environmentally and health-conscious sanitising and disinfecting products, would be Cheryl and Robert’s new source of income.
“It was a natural fit for us to acquire a distributorship with a focus on the hospitality industry,” said Cheryl. “Our extensive industry knowledge, combined with a deep understanding of how RBT works, makes us an ideal partner to assist members in navigating the challenges of infectious diseases.”
RBT is a UK-based company that focuses on not only providing a high quality sanitising product but one that is also environmentally conscious, a point that Cheryl and Robert emphasised.
Distributing the sanitising products to the tourism and hospitality industry in South Africa has not only helped the couple generate their own income, but they see it as their way of helping the industry to reopen doors.
“With their sanitising products, a room can be ready for guests within an hour after cleaning. That’s valuable turnaround time for small guesthouses or lodges,” said Cheryl.