If you’ve had a chance to read My Journey to kickstarting my WHY and How to kickstart yourself in these COVID Times you’ve got an idea of how my head works. (“Good luck with that: “my husband would say!)
My thoughts are that if you understand your own WHY better and you’ve had time to process the incredible shock and trauma of having the world as we know it blow up like something out of a very scary Sci-Fi movie, you are a bit more ready to tackle the next important thing.
In the weeks and months after the initial COVID Lockdown we were completely bombarded with information. Government Media Statements, News Articles and crazy social media posts that frankly, caused the first Panic Attack I’d had in years. We had to learn an entire new language of Government talk and protocols, we had to establish new contacts and networks of people who would supply verified and trustworthy information and of course then came the online meetings!
Webinar after webinar of important and smart people talking about Tourism and its future not only on a national level but the bigger international picture.
At some point I realised that I was now listening to debates. Nobody really knew what was going to happen and when. At the very best the educated guesses by the scientists of what will happen with the virus were now being interpreted by industry experts while keeping an eye on what other countries were doing. Of course, there were crucial things being discussed and excellent advice given. Things like the implications and interpretations of the Gazetted Regulations, designing of health Protocols and the various Relief funding options and how you could access them.
Interestingly the first option people started looking for was Funding and Grants, then looking at loans (but how the heck to pay it back if you don’t know if you have income?!) and many got the unpleasant shock that they did not meet the criteria or were not compliant.
While the Industry was scrambling to understand the Criteria on the Funding options and frantically gathering the required documentation, I for one started realising that I had gaps in my Network. Who the heck do I ask about the UIF? I’m a one-woman business, so I’m not registered for UIF does that mean I’m not able to claim from the TERS-UIF fund?
Some people I chatted to didn’t have the required Financial Statements, nor could they produce the 6 months bank statements for various reasons. Some had been operating their businesses as Sole Proprietors and couldn’t register with CIPC for the Essential Services Certificate.
Red tape, inadvertent non-compliance, the struggle through the quagmire of information, and technological challenges such as access to computers and Wi-Fi all contributed to the incredible sense of desolation and hopelessness that most Tourism Business owners were feeling. Coupled with the sense of responsibility towards staff and their families these owners were (and are) faced with, you start to recognise the stages of grief the Tourism Industry is going through. Front and centre and definitely NOT linear are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Many people I spoke to said that they tried to get help but in the end with all the frustrations and obstacles they “just gave up”.
I don’t have the answers. I spent weeks sitting through those webinars, reading articles and watching TED Talks to help me understand what is happening and what I can do to make it better. I then reached a stage where I realised that my head was full. So full that I was having a hard time processing what was actually happening. This is where I realized I needed to stop and just breathe.
“This is where I realized I need to stop and just breathe”
Out of all the stuff floating in my head I started getting these questions that popped out of nowhere. They would float in and go and sit quietly in the back of my head. When things calmed down a bit, they would nudge at me until I was ready to face them.
These are by no means the 10 steps to success post COVID, but they are questions that led me to realise that there are things that I can control. Even if I don’t have the answers, I could reach out to someone who might have or who might know someone who does.
While the smart people continue their endless and mammoth task of coming up with a Tourism Recovery plan for the entire industry it is prudent that you start with yourself. You might have more or even less questions, but these are the ones nudging at me:
1. Have you educated yourself?
- Do you know what the current Gazetted Regulations are, what you can and can’t do?
- Are you keeping in touch with what is happening in your town, province, Nationally and International trends?
Be cautious of where you get your information and ensure that your information is up to date and verified. Find a credible source such as https://www.satsa.com or https://tbcsa.travel/press-releases/ which will save you a ton of heartache and drama. This also helps you understand the bigger picture as they will keep you updated on burning issues…. and Press Releases are free!
Let’s now look at your own Tourism business.
2. Current Status? Where are you right now?
- Do you know what you’ve currently got in hand and is it possible to survive the next several months?
- Think about your financial situation. Where you are right now and what are your responsibilities. Do you have a Financial Advisor or accountant that can give you advice? If not, who can you approach to give you guidance?
- Think about your staff, what they need and what you can afford. How can you balance these two situations over the next coming months?
3. Compliance, are you or aren’t you?
- All the Funding, grant and relief options have documents that are required in order for you to apply. These would include Financial Statements, Tax Clearance Certificates, UIF registration amongst others. Are all of these in order for your business? If not, what do you need to do in order to become compliant? Who can you speak to? You can check out some of these sites to assist
- UIF https://www.ufiling.co.za/uif/
- How to request SARS Tax Clearance Certificate
- Do you have 6 months Bank Statements from your company? You can get the statements emailed to you on a monthly basis. Just get into the habit of saving them in a file in your computer as they come in. You can also get verified or stamped statements from most Banks if you are registered for Online Banking
- Some of the banks now supply additional support. FNB has an Instant Accounting Service that pulls information directly from your FNB account
- Are you registered on the Central Supplier Database? It is a pretty straight forward and a very user friendly site with a helpful Call Centre if you should get stuck.
- Read through the required documents carefully, what else are they asking for that you might need in the future?
4. How can you make money quickly?
- What are the current, as well as potential, opportunities to start generating an income and is it viable to pursue?Think about your expenses compared to the potential income.
- Think about the staff requirements. How many staff will you need to operate at various levels?
- Think about non-financial implications such as buildings standing empty, staff losing their jobs.
5. Are you READY for sudden changes?
- When the sudden announcement came that Intra-Provincial travel is allowed, were you ready? Have you worked through the TBCSA Industry Protocols and have you got your own protocols in place?
- Has your staff been trained in the Operating Procedures?
- Do you know what to do when or if someone shows symptoms at your premises?
- TBCSA has launched a Free App and Training to Assist Industry with protocols, more info https://www.satsa.com/tbcsa-launches-free-app-training-to-assist-industry-to-reopen-safely-by-implementing-wttc-aligned-safety-protocols/
6. How will people know your business is open and operational?
- Can possible clients find your business easily?
- Is your information up to date on the platforms you are using
- Make sure your business is listed on Google Maps as well as registered with Google my Business . These are both free options and go a long way to ensure that you are “findable” and it helps to keep information up to date.
- Are you using any social media platforms? Not to say that you shouldn’t use a professional if you can afford it, but you have to start somewhere. There are even some professionals out there that are offering free tutorials to help businesses get their online profiles sorted out. Sumari from Falstar Media started an incredibly useful series of webinars to help you help yourself #TourismGoesDigital
7. Although it is a guessing game right now do you know your core market?
- Will they be returning, or should you be looking at pivoting your focus to a different type of client? Do some research. If you have direct access to your previous clients can you make contact with them to hear how they are doing and what they are believing right now?
- If you were previously focussed on International clients, how will you market to the domestic Market? Is it worth it and are you able to pivot like that?
8. Have you updated your Terms and Conditions and Cancelation policies to be more attractive to the client in, what will no doubt be, a very competitive market?
- Do some research on what other businesses are offering and how they are dealing with the challenges. Some innovative information is shared by Louis the Lawyer here
Look at innovative, cost effective ways to achieve the above. A lot of these questions you can answer with little or no cost. There are tons of videos, tutorials and blogs out there to help teach you to do things for yourself, you just need to learn the right terminology. One day when you can pay someone to do this for you professionally, you’ll be grateful for the experience. Like a very wise lady told me a long, long time ago:
“You have to show your staff that you know how to wash the floors yourself. That way they know,
that you know what you’re doing and are giving the instructions from experience”
9. How do I make it happen? The trick is not to wait for someone else to educate or capacitate you.
- Get yourself online, make sure you have access to the above resources. If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, is there a library or community centre in your area that have? There are some excellent offers currently doing the rounds for Wi-Fi suppliers, don’t be afraid to ask for a quote.
- Look at your Network of people. Is there anyone or several someone’s you could tap into for guidance or mentoring?
- Keep yourself informed. Are you part of an Association, Chamber of Business or any other organisation where you can grow your network both on a personal and professional level? Are you active in these organisations? Are you asking for help or giving input when it is requested?
- Don’t just look for a job. Think carefully about what it is you really want to do with your life, then start working towards that goal. Working as a waitress when you want to be a nurse only makes sense if you are saving your tip money to pay for your training.
Lastly, Embrace the Change. The world as we knew it is gone forever. If you want to survive and eventually thrive you need to be different than before.
The truth is that nobody has all the answers, and this is where it is very important that you collaborate, find people that can help you answer these questions if you can’t find them yourself. Reach out, make contact you are not alone.
So right now, this minute…. What is the most important thing for you right now?