The beach ban along the Eastern Cape coast and Garden Route this festive season saw the tourism industry re-inventing itself to save businesses. The slogan “sunny skies and endless beaches” are no longer able to draw the tourists.

Bookings are down 80% compared to previous years and the outlook is bleak.

Eastern Cape tourism heightens efforts to draw visitors:

Following fires in 2018, drought in 2019 and now COVID-19 in 2020; the tourism community of Tsitisikamma and Garden Route is, however, determined to stay positive.

They say despite the massive economic knocks throughout the value chain, they are resilient and will try and save the tourism industry.

Tsitsikamma Tourism Association Chairperson, Lee Marque Jansen, says they need to reinvent themselves.

“Forget about the way you did your business or how you did your marketing; you need to start from scratch. That is exactly what we know best to do in the industry; to reinvent ourselves.”

Owner of Money Land, Lara Mostert, says they have shrunk the number of people that can go on a tour at a time to 10.

“At Monkey Land, the tours are guided. So we have shrunk the size of the tour to a maximum of 10 people so that they can space nicely on the forests, at birds of Eden. We now allow people to walk freely, so we utilising our space better. We’ve also learnt to multi-task which is something I think every South African learnt when lockdown happened; we all of a sudden had to figure things out and do it differently.”

Tourism industry dealt a severe blow with second wave travel ban:

The Eastern Cape promotes itself as the Adventure Province so there are many things to do without getting one’s feet wet.

People have adapted to life amid COVID-19. They continue to enjoy activities such as bungee jumping.

“I think it’s really nice that people are following the restrictions quite well. And I think because there aren’t many tourists around, we find our holiday a lot cheaper than usual and yes definitely a really nice trip to do. Everyone’s adapting but we are really having a good time,” one jumper says.

The small tourist hub of Storms River is trying to woo local visitors with a host of exciting activities. The change in focus from beaches to the promotion of the natural beauty of the area was a natural choice.

“So this is a cape heart big tree that we have come to show you here. It’s been standing here for plus-minus 609 years and this is a very unique tree now forming a face…So the tree has been standing here for more than 500 years and the tree is about 20 meters in height. This is the second biggest tree we have in the indigenous forest around here,” says tour guide Elzira Arries.

With the blue seas off the list of things to do, a forest bike ride or a hike has become the next best thing.