Like many others, Christo Vorster has been hugely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. His tourism business has come to a standstill, but it has also given him the opportunity to explore different avenues and to spend more time with his family. As a role model for his 8-year-old son, Christo says that the pandemic has taught him even more so to be fearless and this is a valuable life lesson that he has taught his son since he was small – face your fears.
“We are obviously spending a lot more time together, whether we’re gaming or going for walks to enjoy our stunning surroundings. It feels as if this crisis has brought back balance to my life and I would like to keep reminding myself just how important work-life balance is in future. My normal workday used to start as early as 05:00 in the morning with a double espresso and often ran until late at night. Now I have time to rest and invest in my child,” mentions Christo.
Christo and his wife made the decision to home school their son as he feels that it is important for them as parents to be directly involved with his education during his formative years. Christo takes care of the technical details, have taught him some coding skills and speaks a lot about business and entrepreneurship, while his wife deals with the theoretical part. “We will send him to a mainstream school when he is older, but at this stage I think the life lessons we can teach him are invaluable. I try to teach him how important it is to face your fears and find ways to overcome them. We talk about my own experiences in business and how you can accomplish anything if you’re prepared to work hard. At this stage, he is keen on running a food truck like I did many years ago,” explains Christo.
Christo was born in Wellington and grew up in Grabouw and Paarl. His father was a foreman on fruit farms in the area, while his mom stayed home and looked after their family. His father taught him the valuable principle of giving people and situations a second and even a third chance – up until a certain point. If a situation does not work out for you, cut your losses, do not bear a grudge and move on. He taught him to always look ahead, because there is so much opportunities out there for the taking.
After school, Christo started as sales presentative in the agri-chemical business. This established in him an inherent love for farming and he still dreams of one day having his own farm. His entrepreneurial skills were honed working as a branch manager for a large chicken fast food franchise group and later as a skills developer in the same company. He mentions that he learned valuable business principles and values from the CEO of the company. “He always compared the business to a plane and said that my job was to help navigate and land the plane. I feel the same way about my own business during this time. I need to find creative and innovative ways to keep the plane going, make the necessary adjustments to survive and ensure a smooth landing.”
Christo also explains that he was strangely prepared for the decline of the tourism industry. During discussions with two of his mentors in the industry, they looked at traditional trends in the tourism industry and saw that it goes through a dip approximately every five years. “With this and the global economy in mind, I started downscaling and streamlining the business last year. I went back to being the sole proprietor and stopped using freelancers. This has proven a good strategy,” he concludes.
The tourism bug hit him after he joined a friend on a three-day tour of the winelands. He fell in love with the industry and the interaction with tourists. His humble and straightforward attitude, friendly personality and capacity for hard work has made him a well-known and popular face in the greater winelands area. A major Canadian tour company has picked him as one of their top ten personal tour guides and last year he did up to ten tours for Canadian visitors per month.
Christo started his tour guiding business, Winelands Sightseeing, in 2014 and operates in the Paarl, Wellington and the greater winelands region. As an entrepreneur, the lockdown has forced him to consider different income options. Convinced that the future of tourism will be digital, Christo is considering how he can integrate this trend in his own business, while still incorporating the human element. He is currently using his local connections to do food and wine deliveries, including meal deliveries for award-winning Paarl restaurant Noop.
“As soon as lockdown regulations are eased more, I would like to expand my tour guiding business by extending my wine bus operations and to include a shuttle service between Cape Town and Knysna. I learned through previous job experiences that you need to calmly reflect during times of crisis. Think about those former challenges and what you had to do to overcome them. You need to step away from the widely-spread fears and rumours and trust your own gut instinct.”