How to kickstart your Tourism Business in these COVID times.

How to kickstart your Tourism Business in these COVID times.

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 or 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
  • 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

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?

From the Stoep – Don’t waste a good Pandemic

From the Stoep – Don’t waste a good Pandemic

It’s an eye opener to realise that today in 4 months it will be Christmas Day.

Totally bizarre to think that this year has disappeared… sped past while we didn’t really go anywhere.

How we lost everything and gained so much in a few months.

How many things changed and how many stayed the same.

How you first had time to do all those little things that have been left for “when I’ve got time” and how some of those things still remain undone.

How the friendships and relationships you’ve had before have changed, some slowly fading and others strengthening through reciprocity even in these difficult times.

How you feel like you’ve got nothing to do and yet the days slip past to where it’s Christmas in a few short months.

In a webinar yesterday someone said

“We shouldn’t waste a good pandemic”

It made me sad and laugh a little at the same time…. And this was the second time this week that I felt like that.

Earlier this week, I heard what I thought was thunder outside.  Although it is not common for us to get rain in August in the Lowveld it is not unheard of.  I walked outside to see what I was hearing and saw the grey flat cloud bank to the north.

The breeze brought the smell of the rain while I sat down on the stoep.  Looking up into the Marula Tree I saw 6 hornbills puffed up, enjoying the afternoon sun. Out of nowhere a bearded woodpecker flew up and started pecking on the tree stump that makes the support for the stoep’s roof. Completely oblivious of the world around her she is going about her business with a focussed dedication that is enviable.

While I’m sitting there absorbing the smell of the rain, the feel of the breeze, the sight of the hornbills chilling and the woodpecker beating against the wood, I become aware of a long – unheard noise intruding into the space.

Far overhead I hear the sound of an aeroplane approaching.

It takes me a moment to identify what I’m hearing. It has, after all, been many months since I’ve heard a jet flying over us.  Then I realise what it means. Aeroplanes mean people, people mean guests, guests mean income and income means survival. Elation bubbles up inside me… HOPE!!

And just as suddenly I realise that this artificial sound has completely distracted me from the peaceful space Nature had gifted me with just a few short moments before. I realise that guests mean busy and busy mean no time to sit and enjoy the peaceful space.

I feel happy and sad in the same moment.

This, one of the lessons I’ve learnt during this pandemic.

Look for the small beautiful moments, embrace them.

One cannot hide away from the bigger world out there but as we start emerging from our lockdown cocoons, understand the you need balance.

Never again will I let myself get so absorbed by what the world demands that I forget to give myself the space to truly acknowledge what I’m feeling, to see what I’m seeing and to smell the rain when I can.

It’s been a precious time and to a certain extent I’m not ready for it to be over yet.

This in itself is something I need to unpack for myself a bit more, and I will.

 But right now, I’m going to have coffee on the stoep and watch the birds for a bit.

About Me

About Me

Hi I’m Marilda…


Let’s Talk Tourism – You are not your business.


Tourism Folk are unique. It takes a special kind of person to operate within the relatively informal Industry that is a small Tourism business.  We are stubborn, independent and often don’t want people telling us what to do. At the same time, we are deeply passionate about our guests, our staff and more often than not go the extra mile for little or no reward, never mind a good review.

In the corporate world there are structures and fancy words that make big organisations tick over. In a small business, where you are often the person who makes the reservations, cooks the eggs while still doing your own Marketing there is very little time for fancy words.  You need understanding and solutions while also being reminded that you are not your business.

I am ready to help.


Let me give you an example of what I mean.

For many years you’ve been in a different Industry earning a living. You might have studied and have a solid education behind you in a specific field.  Now, for whatever reason, you’ve decided that you want to come into Tourism.  Maybe it’s been brewing in your heart of hearts for a long time or maybe you’ve reached retirement age and you think that a little Bed and Breakfast in a beautiful area sounds like to perfect retirement job. After all you can’t just sit around doing nothing until you die, can you?

Although you have life skills, and have already made a success of your “previous life” you are now starting in an industry that, although you understand the bigger picture, you’ve never had to deal with the actual nuts and bolts of what it takes to run a Tourism Business. 

You don’t have the time or inclination to study Tourism or Hospitality, and you’ve done some research and think you’ve got a pretty good understanding of what is needed to run a successful business.

And you take the leap!

Then you start running into snags.  You and your staff are not understanding each other.  The guests are not what you expected or require more than what you thought. You’re struggling with suppliers while still trying to get bums in beds by yourself. You’re getting pressure from friends and family as you are spending many weird hours at your business. Weekends, Public Holidays, birthdays don’t exist as that is when your business are at its busiest.

Your business is doing ok or even great. You come up with plans that sort of work, but you can’t seem to get it running seamlessly. It feels like your attention is constantly needed to not have things go to pieces.

As you keep fighting on you don’t even think that there might be someone out there who can give you a hand. Besides you don’t have the money to pay a fancy corporate Consultant to help you out.

I’m hearing you.

 I know how you need someone you could talk to about your challenges, your frustrations. Someone who could help you see the wood for the trees. Someone who can hold space for you while you work through your own thoughts. Someone who can help guide you with a deep understand of the toll that the Tourism Industry takes on you as a person, you as family member, you as a business owner and you as a boss. 

You don’t need a course; you need help with very specific issues.

Transitioning from your “previous life” to what is now demanded of you (and what you are demanding from yourself) is often more of a challenge than you realise. 

Whether you are advanced in years and experience or just starting out, some of the above will undoubtably resonate with you.

You are not alone.

That’s where I come in, I hold space.  Sometime more, sometimes less but always with honesty and support for where you are right now. We can all learn from each other; we just need to feel safe enough to share ourselves.

And I help you find that space.

It’s not a destination. It’s about navigating wherever you are in your journey right now. It’s about working through the muck.

How can I help you right now?

It starts with a flower

It starts with a flower

Here in the Lowveld in South Africa, October is known as the “dustbowl” of the year. 1 September is officially our Spring day, but we normally have very little rain then.  In October the temperatures are climbing into the high 30’ Degrees Celsius and often into the low 40’s.  

It’s hot, dry, dusty, not comfortable and not pretty either.  Almost all the trees have lost their leaves, the grasses (if there are any) are dried out with animals losing condition quickly.  It’s a sad thing to see the impala ewes with their skinny yet pregnant bodies trying to survive until the rain comes in November and they normally drop their babies.

And then, out of the blue came the rain.  We’ve had 112mm since the beginning of October. And within a week the Bush has completely turned around. There are green shoots everywhere. Grass, plants and trees are making full use of this unexpected gift. Insects are out and about, and the birds are going crazy.

Marius and I took a little drive around the reserve. It’s always interesting to drive around with him.  As a professional safari Guide he has a ton of information in his head, but he also truly loves spending time in the bush.  A lot of that is quiet time without talking. Just observing, watching and being aware of what is going on around you. It’s a lot like meditation but with fun subjects!

While we are driving around, he is constantly stopping, getting out of the vehicle and taking pictures of things I don’t even notice.  He has a completely different way of looking at things and his situational awareness is something that always amazes me.

At one of these stops he got out to take a picture of a flower of a marula tree.  I was surprised by this as in all honestly, I’ve never really thought about what a Marula flower looks like.  The trees are normally big, and you don’t notice the tiny little flowers at the very tips of the tree tops.

This made me feel a little guilty. In Phalaborwa, where we live, Marulas are a really big deal.  Most of Limpopo Province and further up towards Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique all have Marula trees but here in the Valley of the Olifants the Marula tree has enormous cultural and economic value.

In February when the fruit start falling from the trees, the older ladies in the community start walking around collecting the fruit in big bags carted around with shopping trolleys

These bags are then collected at a designated spot and either sold to a local factory that make a world-famous liqueur or taken to their homes. 

At Home the fruit is sorted.  The good quality fruit are turned into anything from Juice to beer or Jam and Atchar. The not so great ones are left to rot and dry out after which the nuts are taken out to either be used in cooking or turned into a Nut butter or sold to another factory that makes essential oils from the Marula Nuts.

The Marula tree is a cultural symbol of fertility and good fortune to the local Ba-Pedi and Tsonga tribes and in the old days couples would get married under it to help bless their marriage.  Even to this day the Marula trees are protected by the Tribal Authorities and it is illegal to cut them down or damage them.

Every year, Phalaborwa has the annual Marula Festival. When thousands of people flock to town to taste the traditional beer and take part in the festivities. 

And it all starts with a little flower.

That tiny little flower that for thousands of years have been quietly growing, season after season has sparked an entire culture.

Sitting there quietly in the Vehicle looking up at this tree, for the first time I saw the entire picture.  The Bees and insects buzzing around these tiny little flowers, pollinating and making sure that the flower turn into a fruit that supports so many people.

During the last few months I’ve felt frustrated, heartbroken and helpless. I’ve wanted to help but didn’t know how when things are so completely out of your hands.  I settled on helping stranded Tourists where we could and sharing verified information to those in our local Industries.  I still felt like it wasn’t enough. I was seeing others doing so much more and I wished I could help more, while also trying to cope with the devastating impact of the Pandemic on our own lives. Both Marius and I had lost all our bookings and contracts until next year, with no chance of anything changing before then.

And then we started getting help from unexpected places.  Friends, family, previous guests all helping a little here and there. Marius had the time to get his own website up and running and managed to sell a few of his pictures and somehow, we are surviving.

Last week I heard a quote by Ronald Reagan: “You can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”

Sitting there looking at that tiny flower I realised that even something as seemingly insignificant as a bee is helping someone.  That small bee, going about his normal business without doing anything extraordinary, makes all the difference to that flower.  And that flower turns into a fruit, which by itself doesn’t mean much but as a collective have supplied generations of people and animals with sustenance and entertainment and income.

No matter what you do, know that you are a piece in a bigger picture and that we, as a collective, have the power to change the world, by just helping someone else.

In this personal journey of discovery, I’ve had these last few months and with this new awareness, it has given me the clarity that I don’t need to take over the world.

I just need to help someone.

I just need to start with a little flower.  

Marilda Wiegand

Opportunity lost … but Lessons learnt

Opportunity lost … but Lessons learnt

I thought long and hard before I decided to share this experience. Ironically, I’ve recently uncovered that Integrity, Insight and Fairness are some of my most important values, the exact things that was brought into question during this incident.  I’m therefore sharing this experience with the sole intent that someone might learn from my journey. 

Sometimes lessons are learnt from the mistakes you make, sometimes it’s not your own mistakes that you learn from.

While communicating with a potential client via email things went very wrong.

I’ve truly never been so completely misunderstood while actually agreeing with a person.

I work with people from all walks of life, from various countries, cultures and languages and have in the past adapted to each one’s personal need and requirements on a one to one basis. Being asked for a quote by a person from a corporate environment I replied in a language with vocabulary that I thought would be professional and clear.

Apparently not.

 Apparently, my detailed reply was understood in a way that made the person feel as if I’m now seeing the big bucks and this made that person feel that I was taking advantage.

Many years ago, I worked with a Boss who used to say: “Assumption is the Mother of all f*%#$! Ups” This was never truer than in this situation. I assumed a professional response was what was expected. The person assumed because I gave such a response I was after a bigger contract and not prepared to understand exactly what the need was.

It took me a while to unpack all this and that in itself was a journey.

At first, I was shocked.

I couldn’t believe the violent response. I thought I must have misread the reply, so I read it again. Nope, the person definitely blew up.

Then I got scared.

 Adrenalin pumped, fight or flight mode kicked in while I was sitting safely in front of my computer. My heart pounding in my chest, palms sweating, short panic breaths. Just like when you’ve got a guest screaming at you about something that is completely out of your control.  I really don’t like that kind of conflict!

I carefully read through all the correspondence again and realised that if I’d just changed 1 sentence slightly the person would have seen without any doubt that I was actually agreeing with everything being said. 

Then I got angry. 

Having my integrity pulled into question was completely unfair – Two things that instantly make me furious. I would like to think that if I saw that a person was misunderstanding me through a clinical medium like an email, I would make personal contact to see if we could understand each other better.

Then I got sad.

We all need money and to have this blow up because of a misunderstanding nearly broke my heart.

So, here are the lessons I learnt:

  1. Listen very carefully and acknowledge what they are saying. We all want to be heard and understood.
  2. Answer questions in the simplest terms so that there cannot be confusion as to your intent. If they want more details, you can chat in person or ask specific questions.
  3. Be true to yourself. Keep your reply as professional as possible but don’t hesitate to let your personality shine through.
  4. Don’t fly off the handle unless you are very sure of the situation. Assumptions can cause so much heartache and not only for the people directly involved.
  5. In such a situation, take a step back and look honestly and objectively at your own response. If you can’t, ask someone to help do that while you work through your own emotions.
  6. Learn from your actions and their consequences. Don’t let it cripple you with doubt or a sense of incompetence in the future. Easier said than done but an important step in your own personal growth.
  7. Sometimes people might just be having a crappy day … and nothing you say or do can or will make a difference.

I lost this opportunity. But I’ve learnt and realised that these are the next steps in my journey. I’m working through being hurt, sad, cross, disappointment but it’s been a good reminder not to make assumptions…

 …and for me to be my authentic self.

Gathering your Tribe

Gathering your Tribe

How is it possible to feel alone in a group of people? How can you feel alone when you are constantly engaging with people? How can you feel alone when the world is united in a way that it has never been before? How is it that nobody is hearing your silent cries?

Over the last few months there have been many questions. Many more questions than there have been answers. Questions that nudge at you but you don’t really take the time to explore.

The time during lockdown and after has given me the space to explore some of these questions that I haven’t had the guts to do before.

Now, in the aftermath of the panic, the enduring anxiety of how to handle the devastating blows that we have been dealt again and again; with hope shattered, dangled and shattered again, I’m asking myself new questions.

Although I didn’t exactly know what the right questions were, those that I did ask led me on a journey.

Firstly, I have realised how important I am. Sounds selfish and egotistical but for the first time in my life I’ve taken (ok been forced!) to dig deeper into myself. To unpack my own reasons and values. To understand the difference between self-knowledge and self-awareness and what all of these mean for me. To really “get” myself and understand what I need.

In the beginning it was a muddle of personal and professional and I spent a lot of time trying to separate the two.  I’ve now come to realise that I can’t. My personal values, awareness and the very essence of who I am MUST be the foundation of my professional life if I want to live a life that is authentically me.

Al these have led me to ask more questions of myself, my relationships and, because it seemed the natural next step, my business.

When lockdown started my Mom stated:” Now you will see the truth about the people around you”

This turned into a truth in unexpected ways.

Acquaintances became trusted friends and helped create the safe space so desperately needed while trusted friends disappeared into their own drama.

While some have been lost to me forever through death, some have also moved further away emotionally.

People I haven’t even met in real life have taught me that I could depend on them in any crisis. 

I’ve been surprized, devastated, encouraged, heartbroken, energized, sad and truly comforted. 

I’ve learnt so much about what is important to me and why. 

I’ve learnt who I can trust and who is just there in the shadows, lurking.

For each one of us to move forward we need to learn about ourselves first and then about the people that surround us. 

3 times this week I’ve seen this quote:” If you want to go fast, go alone

If you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb

In different parts of your journey you will have different people, filling different spaces in your life.  Each one has the potential to be a part of your journey, if you take the time to listen.  Some might have powerful, life altering things to say or do, and some might just be able to give you the silence you need to hear your inner message clearly.

I’ve now had some time to work through the understanding that each relationship that I have must be reciprocal. Some of them will be deeper and some will be superficial, but either way there needs to be a balance. You need to give, and you need to take equally in each relationship and therefore you will need to be clear in your own mind as to who you want in your tribe and for why.

The one lesson that stands above all else is that you cannot travel this journey alone.

Reach out to everyone you can as each one will bring a building block. Friends, family colleagues each fill a different space. 

They each know a slightly different version of you. It is up to you to work through their input with truthfulness and honesty to help you see your path clearer.

For each one of us to move forward we need to learn about ourselves first and then about the people that surround us.

Time to take stock.

Do you have a tribe around you that will love, support, kick your butt, push or pull you when you need it?

If you don’t… ask yourself, why?

If you do…. Ask yourself…. Why?