“Repurposing” – our response to the challenge of Covid-19

What do you do when you have a tourism business but don’t have any tourists? The obvious answer would be to take down the signs and shut up shop.

At Ilha Blue we have decided on a different plan of action. We will join the growing number of responsible tourism businesses around the world that will be supporting the local community through the challenging times ahead.

Mozambique and Coronavirus

Corona virus was detected in Mozambique only a week ago. The first cases involved officials returning from overseas conferences; as of 31 March there were 10 confirmed cases. The government has declared a state of emergency which will run throughout April. This will allow restrictions on movement to reduce contacts and transmission of the disease.

There has been quite an intense debate over a possible lockdown. The main argument is that with most people being very poor, living hand-to-mouth in self-built houses without proper access to water and with no food reserves, it is impossible for households to be isolated. The counter argument is that the alternative is worse, with households having to cope with sick and dying people because health services are overwhelmed. There is also the fact that the population is so young, and this many experts believe, necessitates a very different approach to that followed in countries with a more vulnerable, ageing population. More on this

There’s also another angle to this. Nobody really wants to move away from the island, despite all the deprivations its considered a better place to live. Social distancing is never going to be popular where the over-riding attitude is “the more the merrier”.

Kids washing their hands using a ‘Tippy Tap’. Modified from a tried and trusted design and built by Ilha Blue

What can Ilha Blue do?

To be perfectly honest we don’t really know what we can do. Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing information on corona as a way of preparing our staff and other islanders to take care of themselves and their families when the virus does arrive. We’ve printed and displayed health signs. Today we set out 3 ‘Tippy Taps’ to encourage more hand washing, a small but practical contribution that also has a symbolic function; a visible reminder that even though everything may appear normal, something is fundamentally different. It is a good thing to do, kids love it and we got some pleasure from it too, but we can probably do more.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to use our unique position to report on what happens here, sharing with the outside world the impact of the virus on local people, on daily island life. We can do this by repurposing our social media platforms which are regularly viewed not just by people dreaming of a tropical island holiday, but also by past clients and friends who we know will be worried about the effect on the places and people they grew to love when they visited here.

Also, (inshallah), we will still be here months from now when the virus has run its course and everyone is looking forward to life returning to what passes as normal. From a tourism perspective it may take a year or more for the international visitors to return, but domestic travellers from Nampula, Maputo and possibly other parts of Southern Africa could be encouraged to return much sooner.

Again we have a role to play in rebuilding the destination, better than before, more inclusive and resilient, maybe with our long dreamed of a women’s cafe as an inspiration for the island and a focal point for visitors.

Whatever! We know that the energy and vitality of the Ilhots (islanders) will see us all through.