The Importance of Trust

Many people say love makes the world go round. Well, that may be true, but I am going to argue that TRUST is in fact, what makes the world go round! Trust is the glue that keeps relationships together. This applies to any form of relationship – from parent to child; teacher to student, boss to employee and indeed from nations to governments.

What happens when trust is broken?  Fear and disappointment is left behind.  Mending trust is probably one of the most difficult things to do. The advent of Covid-19 has resulted in a situation where we are stuck with GLOBAL disappointment… and broken trust.  There is so much information out there.  Perhaps too much.

Trust and Social Media

Social media has literally taken over our lives.  How do we distinguish between what is true or false?  Whom or what should we believe? Fake news is nothing new to us, so we have to be super-vigilant to not assume everything we read on our social media accounts.  So, take care before you share! I recently attended the SITE Young Leaders Conference and it was fascinating to hear our future leaders’ take on social media.  One person stated that Facebook was probably the least trusted form of social media in his region while Linked In is probably the best trusted, being dedicated to professional people.  Twitter was not exactly top of the list either.

How do we fix this?

Since this pandemic, it has been encouraging to see how many people, organisations and associations have pulled together, to figure out a way to beat this crisis. Leadership has popped up from unexpected sources.  There are many stories of courage and resilience out there and we can all learn something from each other.  Please share these stories… I would love to hear them!  I believe they need to be heard as it provides courage and hope to many people out there who are still feeling broken due to circumstances that are way beyond their control. It’s not easy to pull yourself though this.  We need each other.  A shoulder to lean on.  An ear to listen.

I have a challenge for you. 

Why don’t you reach out to someone you know that’s in the same boat and just start a conversation.  Do it once a week.  Invite someone else into your circle.  You will be amazed how empowering it is to actually take on a supportive role – even if you are at the receiving end of this crisis.

My Story – ‘Down here in South Africa’

To that end, I wanted to share my own story of rebuilding trust here in South Africa. I hope you will take some inspiration or hope from it!


In South Africa, we have been hit the hardest on the continent with COVID-19 infections.  Our government dealt with it swiftly and decisively, calling for Level 5, complete lock downs by the end of March.  Effectively this killed the tourism and hospitality sector overnight – as it did in the rest of the world.  We were all in denial of course.  No one believed it would last longer than the 3 weeks of lockdown.  Two weeks later, we were devastated when the extension of Lockdown at Level 5 was announced!

Now what?!

At that time, our government did not have a clear understanding of exactly what this meant, economically – not just for our sector but for its entire supply chain.  I am sure many of you have heard about the ICEBERG effect, coined by the Joint Meetings Industry Council.

We were practically on autopilot during April.  A few heads of local industry associations started talking and came to the same conclusion: “We need to work together”.  This soon lead to a few more phone calls and a week later we had the first virtual meeting as the South African Events Council, representing 13 local industry associations.


Working closely with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, our objective was to lobby for government to:

1. Understand the economic scope of our industry and the negative impact it was about to create

2. To understand the overnight poverty it created for many, many people who sat with zero income, from one day to the next.

This includes workers from porters to tour guides, not to mention all the seasonal workers on farms and factories! Let’s take the simple egg for example… one hotel would use, say 500 eggs a day.  Overnight, every hotel, restaurant, coffee shop, and fast-food outlet in the country closes.  How many eggs are the farmers NOT selling the next day?  And the next…and the next?

3. To talk about health and safety protocols.

Our industry is highly regulated and we are pretty good at self-regulating.  Hygiene protocols are second nature for service and kitchen staff.  Covid-19 simply created another layer that we had to observe and train for.  It was very quick for us, as an industry, to adjust. However, it was super hard to convince government that we know what we are doing…

Subsequently, we hosted two events to prove to both the industry, our clients, and the government that we are on top of our game. To show that we are industry professionals, and that our methods and operations can be trusted. 

Rebuilding Trust

We also had several meetings with SA Tourism and finally with the Minister of Tourism and her team.  Our voices were heard and President Rhamaposa advised on 16 September that we may now host events up to 50% capacity or to a maximum of 250 delegates indoors and up to 500 delegates outdoors. What a lovely win that was for our industry! In addition, our border openings were confirmed and we were SUPER excited about that!

Maintaining Trust

The bottom line is, that the government has developed trust in our industry.  Without that trust, we would still be in level 2 or 3 lockdown.  It is up to us now, to make sure that trust is not broken. In Africa, we are currently working on aligning protocols between countries, so that our travellers can have a sense of confidence across borders.  Many trips to Africa are multi-destinational, therefore it is critical to not have conflicting protocols which only confuse the traveller and break down confidence.  They would rather NOT travel than risk being stuck in a country under quarantine for two weeks at their own expense!

In fact, I would argue that these protocols need to be aligned GLOBALLY, so that our governments, airlines and suppliers sing off the same page in order for travellers to trust again.  As long as there is no trust, there is no business.

Next Steps

  • Firstly, the alignment of protocols is key.  We cannot have people unnecessarily detained or quarantined due to misunderstandings on testing requirements.
  • Encourage people in your community to adhere to regulations, even erring on the side of caution.  Wear those masks and keep sanitising. If we want our governments to trust us, we need to do our share. 
  • Share protocols across borders.  Look for common areas and opportunities where protocols can be improved or streamlined.  Let’s make this a global effort so that trust can return in what we do.  Set up committees – find people who are up for the task.  Align those protocols within your own community, then share it externally. 

Well, that is my story! 

I hope I have given you something to think about!

As Jerry Springer said – look after yourself, and each other!

Written by Tes Proos, President of SITE Africa; Founder of Crystal Events

Tes Proos, author of "It's a Matter of Trust"

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