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Open Letter to our Guests and Supporters

The Full Story

This is an open letter to our guests and supporters.

Tented Adventures is in trouble and I want to save it from being another victim of the COVID19 Pandemic - I believe it has the potential, the perfect product and amazing staff members, supporters and suppliers - all who will only benefit from Tented Adventures surviving and growing to its full potential.

Our original promise to our guests was "an authentic and affordable safari adventure" and we delivered on this since 2016 and the proof was the awards we received - the 2017 and 2018 National Lilizela in our category, the 2017 and 2018 Sanlam Top Destinations Award, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence - and the hundreds of positive reviews and feedback notes and emails we received over the years.

We (Tented Adventures) were on such a high at the end of February 2020, after a difficult 3 years we closed our financial year with a net profit, for the first time and we had cash in the bank, ready to take on the new year and with potential investors interested we were going places.

 

The disaster struck, in March 2020 our world was turned upside down, the COVID19 Pandemic arrived in South Africa and with it, the destruction off our economy and to the tourism industry. The panic cancellations, the havoc on our industry and the uncertainty it created was something we never expected or experienced.

I remember thinking "this is a 6 week thing" - I paid our staff members, gifted all our food and beverage stock to them, settled suppliers and started with processing refunds to our guests wanting to cancel. All working to a plan that by the end of April 2020 we will start taking bookings again and we will see and increase in the bookings and get back to our planned occupancies.

Little did I know this will be a destructive 26 months and more, that it would lead to a decimated tourism industry and survival will be the name of the game.

At the beginning of the pandemic I made a promise to our staff members, our guests, supporters and suppliers that we will not just give in and perish and this was a personal promise I made - we had no support from our then bankers, the insurance cover we had ended in a 18 month battle with SANTAM and we lost and all the potential investors decided not to invest - appetite for anything tourism disappeared with the new uncertainty of the travel restrictions announced.

With the assistance of the soft loan by the South African Future Trust and the UIF TERS program and using our cash reserves, we managed to keep our staff salaried and employed. I had amazing support from our key suppliers in that they suspended our accounts, offered payment plans and very often emotional support and I value this most. We all realized that if we didn't support each other the closure of business would lead to 20 unemployed staff members, reduced turnovers in their business and an overall impact in the areas where we operated in (on average we spend close to R 650,000 in the Pilanesberg and Kruger National Park areas per month).

In July 2020 I was offered the opportunity to operate a new camp on the Bezhoek Private Nature reserve by the land owners. This was an amazing opportunity for us and with the predictions that our borders will open for travel in September 2020 I grabbed this offered opportunity and started preparing for a September 2020 opening.

I rebranded Tented Adventures, we modernized the logo - added a blue and green version (3 and 2 star branding) and started recruiting staff, marketing and invested the last of my cash reserves as I believed this to be a great new start. We had an amazing launch, our local supporters were ready and keen to travel and our September, October and November occupancies were promising and then a new lockdown in December 2020 lead to a flow of cancelations all the way to March 2021. By then we were on our knees, the number of refund requests we had, salaries, accounts and commitments added up and I had to make a choice - keep my promise that the business remain operating; ensuring our staff members remain employed, our guests can travel and experience Tented Adventures and our suppliers are looked after OR close the business and call it a day.

Again, I decided to work on a new strategy, fight for the survival of the business and ensure we remain an authentic and affordable travel experience. I engaged with the National Department of Tourism, our bankers, our then insurers, a large number of financial institutions, close to 130 lenders, investors and funding agencies and individuals known to me to secure funds to create cashflow and keep operating.

By then national statistics also showed the dramatic decline in occupancies throughout South Africa, the heavily reduced rates (selling prices) and how competitive it became where 5* properties were competing with 2 and 3 star properties on rates.

Throughout 2021 we were one of the very first to offer vouchers and a fair price commitment to our guests and focused on the domestic market. I was criticized by many in the industry on this strategy and for me it was more a case of reducing the monthly bleed (what I personally had to cover to remain operational).

I also made a promise to our loyal local supporters that we will also ensure an affordable rate is offered to our supporters and with this in mind we offered a range of vouchers averaging R 500 per person per night inclusive of meals and safaris. This was a very popular offer and the rolling revenue from these vouchers ensured we remained operational and trading and could service our guest base and bookings.

Towards the end of February 2022 it became blatantly obvious that we are in a cash negative position, my cash reserves are depleted and with the ever increasing costs of fuel, food and beverage and services. Our revenue showed a dangerous decrease in sales and I had to revisit my strategy and look at how to ensure we actually survive. The struggle throughout March and not being able to raise capital through the traditional channels and following a number of engagements with interested parties and decisions by some of our creditors lead to the ultimate decision to shut Tented Adventures Pilanesberg down pending a refurbishment program and this combined with a new equity capital raising program.

In the same period we received notice from the Bezhoek Private Nature Reserve landowners of their intent to cancel our operating agreement due to our non-compliance, in other words, we could no longer settle our commitments with them.

With difficulty and support from my staff members, we remained operating Tented Adventures Pretoriuskop and this again on a knives edge. With our Pilanesberg camp not operating and not taking any of the new Bezhoek revenue our cashflow reduced by nearly 80% and this lead to a enormous deficit.

I had to advise guests travelling to Pretoriuskop that we for the interim have issues with hosting them and that I will make a formal notice and decision this week.

In closing, I made a commitment to all our staff, guests, supporters and creditors at the beginning of the COVID19 Pandemic that I will do everything I can to ensure Tented Adventures remain in operation. This has taken a huge toll on me personally as well as my senior team members and my reputation and that of Tented Adventures in the tourism industry. I can honestly say none of the deposits paid to Tented Adventures where used to enrich myself or for personal use. 

This I also admit is of very little comfort to all the guests that paid deposits towards future travel dates and now have uncertainty. I also accept that there is a lot of anger and that many accusations against me will follow. I tried my best to make this work and even with all the despair I am working on plans for us to survive and for our guests to enjoy their travel dates with us. 

My main focus for now is to raise capital for the refurbishment of Tented Adventures Pilanesberg, create operating cashflow and to re-open the camps and then grow the business. I believe Tented Adventures have a lot to offer and our authentic and affordable experience is a much needed model in the domestic tourism sector.

Our fund raising opportunities include fractional ownership through NFT's, tokenized securities and recruiting strategic partners.

Please work with me, we now need your support and understanding more than ever, closing Tented Adventures will be a loss for all.

The email details in use is tentedupdates@gmail.com and I will try my level best to respond as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Wynand

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