If the past two years taught us anything, it is how consistently we can get our predictions wrong, from the initial belief that COVID-19 would only last three months. Every time we believed and planned accordingly that it was over, we had a new wave of restrictions. What we learned was to be flexible, to adapt and to value the small things in life that make a difference. We have learnt to appreciate each other a little bit more and to value the experiences that travel brings into our daily lives.
The Sense of Africa Namibia team were privileged to return to the office after the lockdown in May 2020. Returning to the office was filled with the same amount of excitement as a 10-year school reunion, in which lockdown stories were shared, enjoying a cup of coffee with colleagues while waiting for the tourism industry to return. In hindsight it was also the most frustrating time, as everything we did in 2020 for a return to business in 2021 was for nothing. We remained positive and we persevered during this tough period as we had no other option.
During this period, when new forecasts and predictions were overtaken by more draconian regulations by governments to avoid COVID-19, the teams began to think differently.
Staff Educational Trips – As the famous tourism saying goes, “you can only really sell something when you’ve had the opportunity to experience it”. Personally this is our belief, that consulting staff must be passionate about what they sell, and to do that, they must ‘LIVE IT’. Whilst we live in difficult times, it is awesome to get out and travel – even if the tourists couldn’t. The team went on various educational trips to areas such as Kaokoland, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei and properties in and around Windhoek in order to experience them first hand. It is important that our guests enjoy the comfort of good-quality accommodation and exceptional service during their time exploring Namibia. We kept our finger on the pulse, increasing our product knowledge and keeping in touch with our supply chain.
Exploration Team – Our product team, never one to sit quietly when the promise of travel is around, went off the beaten track and explored hidden gems available in Namibia. They visited open wilderness areas for new opportunities, whilst also reviewing existing product on the ground. They collated a wealth of knowledge and travel experiences to share with our customers.
Guide Academy – With not much travelling done over the last two years, our guides remained active by keeping their First Aid Certificates up to date, practising their driving skills and upgrading their licence capacity to heavy-duty vehicle Code 11 licences. A number of guides were involved in clean-up campaigns, making sure our natural habitat remained pristine and untouched for the arrival of tourists.
Fleet – While our fleet of 60 vehicles reached a complete standstill, our workshop staff opened up our in-house workshop to the public, operating as a full-service centre and occasionally a wash bay. As we emerge from COVID-19 restrictions we have reduced the size of our fleet by 25%, and our vehicles have undergone a full service check to be ready for the return of our guests.
Last but not least, our heartfelt project – The Bishop Kameeta Kindergarten – which we continued to fully support during the pandemic, started with only two kids and over the years, with our support, has grown to 86 children. We are extremely grateful and happy that we have been able to carry the operational costs during this difficult time, ensuring a safe space for the children to stay, learn and grow in.
Key to our focus was to maintain our relationships with our trading partners, and continue to create and perfect our Self-Drive tours, Private or Schedule Guided Tours and Camping Adventures, so that we would be ready for business and mostly to welcome guests back to Africa for more than just a journey.