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Way forward for hospitality industry
Busy season in full swing at Shark Rock Pier.Photo: CARA-LEE DORFLING

IN order to survive the lockdown period, hospitality establishments in Nelson Mandela Bay would have to look at new opportunities and ways to improve relationships with existing stakeholders.

This was one of the key factors brought up during a recent online panel discussion hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, to figure out the way forward for one of the hardest hit industries.

One of the speakers, operations manager at the Boardwalk, Nicholas Forsythe, said that the lockdown had forced hospitality institutions to pause and reset.

He believes that establishments should make use of this paused stage to unpack their businesses and focus on creating new, improved relationships with suppliers, customers and agencies.

“We will need to revise our operation procedures. We’ll have to adapt to the new norm because hygiene protocols and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) will not go away, even with the flattening of the curve,” Forsythe said. “People will want to see that we have embedded that within the culture of our business dynamics.

“We need to remember that people have their own televisions and beds at home, but they travel to us because of an emotive connection they have with us.

“That is why we need to make sure that safety and sanitising is written into our business culture,” Forsythe said.

He also added that although not all staff could be employed at the moment, it didn’t mean immediate job losses.

We’ll have to adapt to the new norm because hygiene protocols and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) will not go away, even with the flattening of the curve.”
Nicholas Forsythe, operations manager at the Boardwalk

He suggested that businesses allow their employees to return in a staggered fashion or change their trading hours.

“Businesses could also upskill their workers or implement cost-sharing with other establishments. Staff rotation could be implemented among institutions to ensure that minimum hours are worked. Establishments need to work as a collective in order to survive.”

He added that it is also important to look at new markets, especially domestic travel, since that will be the key revenue generator because international travel will probably only be strong again in 2021.

Another panellist from BLC Attorneys, Guy Dakin, said that the metro had always been very focused on water-based and sporting events when it comes to tourism but that it needs to expand its horizons.

“These events have largely been successful, but we don’t know when these large events will be allowed again. We need to have a workshop with the organisers to discuss how they can change their events to bring them back in 2021 and how they will take place with the pandemic,” Dakin said.

“The metro needs to shift its focus away from sports-related events. It has to rework its calendar and find other events to attract tourists. We need to make tourism attractive again so that people feel the need to come to the Eastern Cape,” Dakin said.

A group general manager of the Mantis Collection, Tracy Lancaster, said that one of the major challenges in bringing tourists back to Nelson Mandela Bay was the price of flights to the Bay.

“A price war could erupt and the car hire industry is already taking a hard hit. People won’t come here for a few days if there is a place in their province that they could visit.”

She also encouraged businesses to adhere to protocols set in place and to re-look at the management of their establishments.

“Without our guests’ confidence, we cannot make it. There should be no room for our guests to doubt that we have stringent protocols in place,” she added.

“Despite everything, I remain optimistic that we will survive this, although it will take a very long time.”

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