July 18, 2021, marks the 12th Anniversary of Mandela Day—an annual celebration of the legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on his day of birth. This year, the milestone is once again contrasted by the stark realities of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

For more than a year now, disadvantaged communities continue to disproportionately endure its effects. In South Africa, the devastating loss of income opportunities, as well as the drying-up of relief mechanisms, have created a food security crisis. According to Ipsos, “almost half of all adult South Africans surveyed in late 2020 said that their households often had to go to bed hungry during the Covid-19 pandemic as [they] did not have enough money for food”. To highlight these challenges, the theme of this year’s Mandela Day is One Hand Can Feed Another.

The loss of livelihoods has been acutely felt across our industry. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the South African tourism industry generates more than 2.2 million jobs. However, more than 80% of the industry is comprised of small businesses—many of which are on the brink of shutting down as global travel restrictions and national lockdowns cripple the industry’s ability to remain afloat. In the last year alone, the severity of the pandemic has resulted in the loss of more than 300,000 jobs in the industry according to Deputy Tourism Minister, Fish Mahlalela. In a recent report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), projections show that South Africa will suffer one of the greatest economic losses in the world from the disappearance of cross-border tourism until at least 2023. According to the report, which measured the impact of reduced cross-border tourism on both GDP and the loss of unskilled labour, even an optimistic simulation of the future impact ranked South Africa as the third-most affected country in the world.  On an even larger scale, tourism accounts for 7.1% of Africa’s total GDP, contributing a vital USD 169 billion to the continent’s economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, nearly 8 million these tourism-related jobs have been lost in Africa alone.

Nonetheless, in the fitting words of Nelson Mandela, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”. We, as the Cape Milner family, are sanguine about the future. Here are three trends that illuminate why we remain steadfast in our confidence about the future of tourism in South Africa as we readjust to a new, post-pandemic normal:

1. Growing Demand for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle:

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally reshaped the business environment. The hybrid work model has become the new standard. One of the largest trends to come from the pandemic within the hybrid work concept is the rise of the digital nomad. According to Forbes, there was a 49% increase in digital nomads from 2019 to 2020 alone. Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings such as Gmail, Zoom, and Uber have greatly facilitated the rise in digital nomads across the world because of their accessibility. Employees across industries are simply able to visit a website and log into their accounts to access their company’s platform and their cloud-stored personal data from anywhere around the world.

According to a mid-pandemic study by Michael Page, 79% of surveyed South Africans indicated that they worked from home or had a hybrid work concept—compared to just 26% pre-pandemic. Employers across sectors noted that remote working produced improvements in communication skills, technical proficiencies, and productivity according to the Robert Walters Salary Survey of 2021.

Even closer to home, the City of Cape Town has been voted as one of the “Best Places for Remote Working in 2021” according to World Travel and Tourism Council as well as a separate study conducted by Nestpick. The City of Cape Town has also recently unveiled a ten-point strategic plan to leverage its status as the ultimate destination for the digital nomad. According to Business Insider, the City will also seek to market its abundant coworking spaces, stable internet access, and reliable public transport in order to position itself to benefit from a resurgence in international travel. Business Insider also reports that the South African government is seeking to launch an electronic Remote Working Visa scheme, which would allow visitors from more than 100 countries to complete their applications online and would permit travellers to stay in South Africa for a period between three months and a year as long as they can provide proof of the income that they will earn from foreign sources.

The Cape Milner’s Digital Nomad offering allows travellers from around the world to benefit from living and working remotely from an oasis within the City of Cape Town. Our Digital Nomad packages are carefully curated to offer our digital nomad guests with the resources and solutions desired to amplify their productivity at an affordable price, whilst indulging in the paradise of coastal living. From complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the Hotel to our tailored meeting facilities, we have fundamentally reinvented ourselves to create the ultimate hybrid working environment.

2. Innovative Covid-19 Health Protocols and the Vaccination of Frontline Workers

In the wake of Covid-19, the industry has worked hard to ensure that we provide maximum service to make certain that no need goes unmet whilst continuing to protect traveller safety. Our elevated and dynamic covid-19 protocols—developed in collaboration with leaders of the local tourism sectors, the Government of South Africa, and within the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework for travel and hospitality— embrace today’s environment and the need for world class augmented safety, hygiene, and social distancing standards. Here at the Cape Milner, we have also introduced our digital App, which provides contactless features such as online check-in and dining reservations to minimise the time spent at frequent touchpoints. As new research on the changing nature of the virus emerges, we continue to refine our approach.

In the wake of Covid-19, the industry has worked hard to ensure that we provide maximum service to make certain that no need goes unmet whilst continuing to protect traveller safety. Our elevated and dynamic covid-19 protocols—developed in collaboration with leaders of the local tourism sectors, the Government of South Africa, and within the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework for travel and hospitality— embrace today’s environment and the need for world class augmented safety, hygiene, and social distancing standards. Here at the Cape Milner, we have also introduced our digital App, which provides contactless features such as online check-in and dining reservations to minimise the time spent at frequent touchpoints. As new research on the changing nature of the virus emerges, we continue to refine our approach.

Though South Africa’s vaccine rollout strategy commenced at a comparatively later stage, the vaccination rate continues to grow at an almost–exponential level. In just two weeks, the country’s vaccination rate has increased by more than 400% (700,904 people on May 20, 2021, versus 3,639,039 people on July 8, 2021). As of July 15, 2021, people over the age of 35 are eligible to register and get vaccinated. For the tourism industry, the national government has also approved in principle that tourism sector front-line workers should be prioritised in the ongoing rollout strategy. The increase in vaccination rates across the country, and particularly within our industry, will increase our resilience and expedite our preparedness to welcome international travellers. We also hope that the vaccination of frontline tourism workers will reaffirm confidence in the safety of South Africa as a destination.

3. Growing Desire to Travel with Purpose

Most compellingly, 2021 has cemented the collective desire to travel consciously and sustainably. As Forbes notes, travel experts predict that travellers will be more thoughtful and responsible when it comes to where they are going and how they are approaching the whole travel experience. According to a study conducted by travel company, Virtuoso, more than 84% of travellers indicated that the covid-19 pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future. 72% of those surveyed wanted their next travels to support local communities and economies as well as preserve the destination’s cultural heritage.

As an organisation, the fundamental element that drives what we do is our passion and love for the City of Cape Town as a landmark tourist destination. We are humbled to also be the custodians of an iconic piece of South African heritage. Our building structure retains the Victorian architectural design of the 1900s. Our guests can still enjoy the symmetry of Art Deco and the ornate details of Cape Town’s Victorian legacy, now modernised to fit the times with splashes of urban African designs and contemporary finishings.

Above all else our strong sense of community, which is shared amongst all Capetonians, truly ensures that we remain steadfast in our mission to promote the unique universality and benevolence of Cape Town—and South Africa—to the world. In April 2021, this notion was put to the test when the City was ravaged by the devastating wildfires that swept through the University of Cape Town and the surrounding neighbourhoods. On the 19th of April 2021, a raging wildfire burnt through the University’s historic campus library on the slopes of the Table Mountain, destroying the 200-year-old structure and forcing thousands of university residents to evacuate. More than 100 firefighters and emergency personnel were deployed to the University campus and surrounding Table Mountain National Park  in order to salvage as much as possible. The Cape Milner team did not hesitate to do our small part in responding to the crisis and helping to get the City back up on its feet. Our team had the utmost pleasure in hosting some truly amazing University students who were in need of emergency accommodation. The students were exceptionally kind and empathetic in light of the sudden crisis that they had been thrown into. The experience reminded of us of the overriding sense of unity, shared amongst all members of the Cape Town community, which propels us to continue doing our small part in promoting this incredible destination to the world.

Despite the unprecedented levels of uncertainty, isolation, and despondency that have gripped our existence as people over the last year and a half, our shared optimism for a better tomorrow drives us to innovate, problem-solve, and bravely face the challenges that we are experiencing. It is for these reasons that we embrace Nelson Mandela’s spirit of Ubuntu— “I am, because you are”. As a society, we have never been more aware of the collective responsibility that we all share to transform the world for the better.

Through our individual capabilities, we are able to make meaningful, lasting change. As we emerge out of the dark times of lockdown, we commit to doing our small part in helping to transform the world we live in for the better with renewed vigour, hope, and empathy. We look forward to collaborating with our guests to create lasting memories, and for them to leave a lasting legacy of their time spent with us.

Wishing our readers a very Happy Mandela Day!