Good day travel partners
It has been more than a month since we arrived at the lodge for lockdown. Normally, the saying goes: “Time flies, when you’re having fun.” I am sure that most of you would agree that time also sometimes flies, despite difficult circumstances…
The Covid-19 pandemic is still very much a reality in our midst. The calm before the storm, it seems. It feels like a lifetime ago, when we first started dealing with its influence on us, as a tourism destination. The virus is affecting the whole world, the young and the elderly, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick. Nobody is exempt from its influence and impact on our day-to-day existence.
Although it proves very difficult at times, we at Elephant Plains Game Lodge are choosing to embrace the positives that can come from the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not indifferent to its negative impact. Not at all! And the choice of having this frame of mind is definitely easier said than done, I know. But we are choosing to see this as a reboot opportunity. A reset button that was pressed on our behalf. Maybe we were so busy doing “life” and “business”, that we needed a greater power to grind the entire world to a halt. On a much larger, grander scale than any of us could ever have imagined.
At EP we have chosen to grab this reboot opportunity with both hands. We are working hard. Not only on some general maintenance in and around the lodge, but also on our administration. There is so much to do! In a way, I see this time as an opportunity to redefine ourselves. There are no fool proof guidelines on how to perfectly handle Covid-19 in the tourism industry. We are all learning something new every, single, day. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes decisions are easier to make and sometimes they are almost impossible.
Still, Covid-19 has lent itself to the opportunity of showing character and instil, in those who do not already know EP that well, our values and commitment towards the industry. We are sensitive to the uncertainties and fears that the outbreak has imposed on both our travel partners and our guests. Nobody knows for certain, when business, as we knew it before, would return to normal. As I am writing this sentence, I actually have a problem with this statement. I would love to see the world changed, for the better, after the pandemic. I would love for a new kind of “normal” to grow from this.
As a tourism destination, we will have to wait and see when guests (both local and international) would be able to return to the lodge. Because we’ve always had very competitive rates and used to have a relatively large South African market, we would like to continue with this, going forward. Competitive rates have also made us a firm favourite in the international market. We offer an authentic, luxurious experience. Affordable, but still extremely good value for money. This positioning in the market should help us, when we re-open our doors one day. We have always been an honest family business. We’ve always had the correct values in place and I believe that these are the basic traits that would distinguish us in the future.
Bar and Lounge Refurbishment
Those of you who have done business with Elephant Plains in the past, would remember that we always did a rate increase every second year. You would also remember that we used to have a child rate. Seeing that we are returning back to the basics, back to our roots, it seems like the first logical step to take.
Therefore, our 2020 rates would be carried forward to the 2021 booking year. That would be for bookings already in the system, as well as for any future bookings for 2021. Our child rate (75% of the full paying adult rate, for children under 12) would also once again apply. Unfortunately, we will not be able to accommodate children under the age of 3 years.
Please also note that we are well aware of many suppliers asking for SADC rates, extra discounts and more commission. Not to mention the various suggestions to alter our normal cancellation and payment policies. Although we understand and appreciate everyone’s need to try and broker the best possible deals, we will not agree to any of these requested changes to our standard policies, unless stated in writing. Each request and / or suggestion would be handled on a case-by-case basis. We are still busy re-drafting our whole booking system, including the provisional and confirmation processes, payment terms, altered cancellation policies etc. These would all be communicated timeously and thoroughly. For the time being, our previously adjusted policies that were sent out, are still applicable.
Rhino Suite Refurbishment
I realise that a lot of people in the industry are extremely anxious and uncertain about the future. We should all be. But deep in my heart, I know that EP will survive this. The lodge is not a business that we tried out and unfortunately, failed at. It is a part of us, an extension of ourselves. We are EP and vice versa. Twenty-two years ago, Etienne started the lodge on his own. He woke his guests for morning drives, after first stoking the donkey boiler for hot water. He did check-ins and check-outs, bushwalks, hosting; he played barman and waiter. He went to bed when his last guests retired for the night. Only to start over again in a few hours. All the while living in an old, rundown caravan, without a proper roof! His love for Elephant Plains and his unwavering faith in the product itself, fuelled his determination to make a success, long before it even looked possible. Adaptability and the willingness to listen to our future traveller market, will carry us forward. Albeit changed? We don’t know. Maybe on a smaller scale for starters? Possibly.
We’ve been making a lot of “time” jokes recently: Luckily, we have lots of “time”, “time” is all we have, “time” will tell. So, in the meantime… Our maintenance team is hard at work on general lodge maintenance, as well as ecological projects. The total revamp on Rhino Luxury Suite has been completed. It looks exquisite and we are very proud of the end product. We’ve been toying with the idea of making some major changes to our bar area. Unfortunately, with a full camp most of the year, it is impossible to work throughout the day, while there are guests in camp. Lockdown has granted us this unprecedented opportunity and as “time” is something we have at the moment, we got started right away. I am delighted with the look we’ve created thus far. Watch this space…
In a sense, the bush is resting for the first time in our 22 years of commercial business. In retrospect, this also seemed necessary. We are hard at work on the ecological side of the farm and the results are starting to show. The animals are doing well and the impala rams are in full rutting season. They fight and intimidate each other, from dusk till dawn and here and there you can already see the successful conquerors with their newly acquired herds. Early this morning Etienne and I had coffee on our porch and heard the familiar call of a fish eagle. They have moved to Bushcamp Pan and we hear their almost re-assuring calls, throughout the day.
The kids have settled nicely into life on the farm. They are enjoying game drives – Etienne drives tracker seat and is fully embracing the thrill of being able to track and find animals with his new skills. Martin is becoming quite the photographer – I have shared some of his recent photos – not bad for a 7-year-old! In between working and strategizing, we as a family are also enjoying the quality time we get to spend together. We are getting used to this new routine. Weekdays are workdays. With us spending time on admin and the kids busy with their online home-schooling. During most afternoons, we go out on drives. Weekends are all of a sudden only quality family time, no work involved. In a world that seems to be a mess right now, we count our daily blessings.
Please remember to submit your favourite EP selfies for our Covid-19 Collage, to email@example.com. Thank you to those that have already submitted some incredible memories.
I absolutely love reading and with our whole new “back to basics” endeavour, I have once again found joy in something that truly makes me happy, but that we somehow never make enough time for.
Here is a piece that I recently read and can totally relate to:
When this is over,
May we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbours
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine check-up
A school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
When this ends,
May we find
That we have become
More like the people
We wanted to be
We were called to be
We hoped to be
And may we stay
That way – better
For each other
Because of the worst.
– Laura Kelly Fanucci –
Stay safe and God bless.
Etienne, Marlet, the kids and the whole EP team.