Nadine, Media Reporter for Touch Down Travel Tech sat down with the CEO,
Deon Barnard of Go Touch Down Travel and Tours to speak about the future of travel, in particular to South Africa.
Reporter: Personal question to kick off, how long have you been in the travel industry?
CEO: I started in 1988 and I’m extremely passionate about the travel industry.
I just love seeing how a trip on safari, in particular, affects people -it’s truly life-changing.
Reporter: How many travellers pre Covid-19 were you taking to South Africa?
CEO: Although we have many European and Australian travellers, our biggest market is North America. For the last few years, we have averaged over 1,000 tours per annum. To date, more than 9,500 guests have travelled with us.
Reporter: What is the current status with regards to travel restrictions to South Africa?
CEO: South Africa will allow any international travel to arrive subject to producing a negative PCR Covid test within 72 hours before departure. However, Australia has currently closed international travel and Canada has strict restrictions for returning residents. Canada has implemented a mandatory quarantine upon return, hence Canadians are waiting until at least September 2021 to travel, as this is when they expect their vaccines to roll out effectively. The USA which is our biggest market requires a negative PCR Covid test for both in and outbound travel from the States.
Reporter: Where can travellers get tested in South Africa?
CEO: There are multiple places, including JNB (OR Tambo) airport. Go Touch Down Travel will schedule the testing for guests’ in South Africa should it be required
Reporter: What happens in the event that someone tests positive and gets ‘stuck’ in South Africa?
CEO: The client is our responsibility. We promise our guests that we are 100% in control of the quality and outcome of their experience. If a guest tests positive, we will put them up in one of our properties for the quarantine period. The accommodation tab is on us, the guest would just be required to pay for meals. In short, guests may be ‘stranded’ on safari for a few days longer. Essentially, Travel Go Touch Down’s infrastructure is solid and stable, meaning we are in contact with operations, twenty-four hours per day and are available to assist with any request.
Reporter: Recently you went on the record to say that you predict Vaccines will become mandatory. Can you elaborate on that?
CEO: It is my prediction that vaccine passports, perhaps digital passports will start to roll out. I’m of the belief that Vaccines only last a year and therefore predict that international travel will start enforcing vaccines as a mandatory requirement in order to travel. Certain cruise liners have already implemented this policy. Go Touch Down Travel has committed to work with clients on extension dates if this becomes an issue.
Reporter: Can you tell me more about your Travel 15, 24 and 36 program?
CEO: We are excited to offer our travellers the new Save Now and Travel Later packages.
1. The #Travel15 package is straightforward. You pay a small deposit and lock in your tour price for 15 months. During this period you select the date and have flexible options.
2. The #Travel24 and #Travel36 package are the most popular as they give the traveller 24 to 36 months to select dates and make as many date changes during that time as is required. The benefit is that these layaway programs enable guests to lock in today’s price but travel any time during their travel terms.
Reporter: What happens if they can’t go or need to change the dates last minute?
CEO: There is always insurance that can be discussed in order to assess what refund options are available. However, we will allow guests to change their dates last minute and postpone their vacation, provided they are on the #Travel15, 24 or 36 program. One other option to consider is free transfers. We allow the traveller to transfer their benefits to another traveller at no fee. It could be friends or family. We take care of all the documentation.
Reporter: Do you predict that the price of travelling internationally will increase?
CEO: I am certain it will. I believe the big busy tours history. Travellers want small and intimate tours that offer social distance and space. We limit our tour groups to a maximum of 6 guests. When international travel resumes, one will see an increased demand for quality, safety and more intimate experiences. Operators and airlines will need to adjust to the new demands of travellers, in order to recoup the financial losses that will inevitably happen as a result of more tailored, intimate experiences. Now is the right time to find travel deals, where one can lock in today’s rates in and travel later.
Reporter: Clearly South Africa is your first love, but do you have another destination that you are passionate about?
CEO: I love Croatia, the nation that believes that life in years is more important than the years in your life. I love that philosophy, live your life making a living. Croatia is affordable and fabulous, where you can book a catamaran that sleeps 6 to 8 and travel for a week around the islands. Split was one of the most memorable experiences that I had the privilege of witnessing.
Reporter: Any parting words?
CEO: Travel and Digital Detox. Every year find a new place to go to and get lost so that you can find yourself again. Leave your emails and social media behind and go recharge your heart.