Robben Island Museum: Tourism industry is opening up but demand is low

Pippa Hudson speaks to guests about the Robben Island travel booking complaints and what this means for the tourism industry in general and the businesses surrounding it.

There is no denying that one of the industries to be hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic has been tourism, but as the world slowly reopens, so is the industry.

Though this is good news for not only the country, but businesses closely related to or impacted by the tourism industry, it still faces the residual impacts that hard lockdowns across the world has had.

Demand is still comparatively low for international tourism but does that mean that businesses that thrive on international tourist bookings should drop the ball on their service offerings?

On the one hand, a drop in demand means a drop in profitability. A drop in profitability means less money to actually provide the necessary services for customers. Less money means that businesses now need to adapt to their current positions or risk losing the business.

On the other hand, seeing that the country had thrived in the tourism and hospitality industries in the past, now that things are opening up again, so do these businesses. A drop in demand shouldn't necessarily become an excuse for poor service delivery.

It is not a matter of disregarding the industry. As a key role player in this industry, we know more than anything how important it is to defend your reputation, to offer a superb service - but at the end of the day, if it is not viable, you simply have to guage the numbers and say 'we cannot run that tour, let's make alternative arrangements and let's offer alternatives'.

Melany Kuhn - Spokesperson for Robben Island Museum

An instance where this conundrum has reared its ugly head is with the issues happening with booking ferries for tours to and from Robben Island, one of the most important landmarks in the country, not just for tourists but for the country's history as a whole.

Issues of tour bookings being cancelled, often on short notice, seem to be putting a dent in the country's tourism reputation and is egregiously impacting businesses involved with the island in some way or the other.

Spokesperson for Robben Island Museum, Melany Kuhn, argues that this issue is unavoidable as a "culmination of issues" has impacted its ability to provide services that do not run a deficit to the company.

However, Owen Jinker, owner of Root Africa Tours, argues that change in demand should not impact the quality of service delivery that they provide, especially seeing how important a symbol Robben Island is to the country and its story.

So many times as tour operators, we get two packs for a Cape Point tour where you're definitely not going to make money but we've got to run the tour, we've got to satisfy our international guests. We cannot, at this late hour, tell our guests 'there's only two people booked for the Winelands tour or the Cape Point tour, so now we're cancelling the tour'. It doesn't work that way.

Owen Jinker - Owner of Root Africa Tours

A country that prides itself for being "world-class" should be providing world-class services despite whatever is happening in the industry.

More in Multimedia