Travel restrictions tougher for some

By Jack Waters

WITH constant postponements and ongoing travel restrictions in place since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores early last year, it certainly hasn’t been the best time to own a business that relies heavily on international travel.

For Sunshine Coast-based safari consultants The Infinite Horizon, the ever-changing travel restrictions and protocols have made planning international trips a nightmare.

Despite that, owners Teena and Steve Chumbley have managed to organise six trips to various African destinations for American clients this month.

Teena said all trips would have to be heavily monitored, with daily check-ins and guide updates to ensure COVID safety protocols were met.

“The difference is we are now not only monitoring our clients as they move through their safaris, but also constantly negotiating the entry requirements for COVID testing at each port of entry for the ten countries we operate in,” Teena said.

Although the drop in business has certainly impacted Teena and Steve, the African countries they operate in were hit much harder.

One of The Infinite Horizon’s long-time service providers in Tanzania told them that that they had held themselves really strong through this nightmare of COVID-19.

“I basically focused on looking after our team; albeit they are on half salaries now,” the service provider said.

“The people I work with are everything to me and my husband, and they have worked so hard and passed through some really hard times in a country where there is no social welfare system for them individually or for us as a business.

“Lots of fundraising exercises via my family and friends have helped to buy goat meat, rice, sugar and other staples to hand out to keep the guys in Arusha going with their health and welfare.

“I love the life coming back slowly into tourism in Tanzania.

“I am confident that international travel will eventually recover – as we all will,” the service provider said.

For Teena and Steve, the pandemic has given them a chance to reassess their business plan and lay a foundation in case travel restrictions remain in place for an extended period.

“I have retrained as a swim teacher of babies and toddlers, Steve is volunteering at Australia Zoo and the family has joined the hard-working wildlife organisation WILVOS, so we help out when we can,” Teena said.

The pair are also exploring adventure experiences in Australia to help bring their international clientele to the country.

In the meantime, Teena said it was all about staying positive.

“We do acknowledge as a family we are very fortunate to be able to ride the lockdown wave with some buoyancy. We fully understand the struggle many families have endured during this time,” she said.

“In Swahili polepole (said polipoli) is often heard from a guide to clients climbing Mt Kilimanjaro – in this case it means go slowly.

“One slow step in front of the other and you will make it to the summit!”