International Webinar: ATLAS AFRICA in collaboration with UPCT 2021

Posted on December 01, 2021

The Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research (ATLAS), the global association established to develop transnational educational and research initiatives in tourism and leisure, hosted a webinar in collaboration with the 2021 University of Pretoria Campus Tours (UPCT) team on Wednesday the 24th November 2021.

The event was organised by Ms Leontine Onderwater and Caitlin Lindsell and was introduced by the chair of ATLAS Dr Tara Duncan, from Dalarna University, Sweden. The theme of the webinar, “Health the New Wealth in Social Prescribing Tourism”, reflected on the research conducted by the Heritage and Cultural Tourism students throughout their honours year. 

The webinar was hosted virtually from the University of Pretoria, by the UPCT 2021 team who presented on the concept “social prescribing” within the “tourism industry”. Throughout the year the team, who run a simulated tourism agency as an integral part of their honours module, researched and gathered information on the concept. They then had to devise ways to align this with the tourism industry broadly speaking, but more specifically with UPCT.

Essentially, they developed various tours to offer on the campus grounds (as well as virtually) as a way to enhance wellbeing and mental health among staff, students and the broader public as well as people specifically suffering as a result of the pandemic.

As we know, mental health is a not a new concern, but under the Covid-19 pandemic it has only become more apparent. The concept itself includes our social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act in our day to day lives. While also assisting in determining how we as people handle our stress, how we relate to others, as well as make decisions. 

It has been proven that mental health is important at every stage of life, from early childhood and adolescence to adulthood. In the context of the pandemic and the impact it has had in many spheres of our lives, the webinar showcased the evidence of this impact on people across the globe as well as in South Africa. The team then reflected on how they had developed various campus tours as a way of “social prescribing” to alleviate stress and attempt to combat the increase of mental illness that resulted from the pandemic and its ongoing after effects.

Through research and the implementation of Oxford’s GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums), which was adapted by the University of Pretoria Museums to GLAM - Gardens/Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, UPCT devised various offerings.  The team was able to devise a number of tours to get guests of their homes and break the isolation and negative effects of Covid-19. This indicated the direct link UPCT made between Covid-19, isolation and depression and the tourism sector.

Under the guidance and mentoring of Professor Karen Harris, Head of Department, various types of tours were developed including virtual interactive tours, bubble tours and open air tours. The tours on offer which showcased the campus were general tours as well as GLAM specific tours including Garden tours, the Aloe and Sculpture routes and Museum tours. In addition various others tours were also developed to commemorate events such as International Museum Day, Mandela Day, Women’s Day and Heritage Day.

These tours were used as a way to allow participants to be surrounded by beautiful images, gardens, history and spiritually enriched environments. The aim was to benefit guests by improving their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being by providing positive experiences on the campus, interacting with student tourist guides. 

Last but certainly not least, the webinar also reported on the 2021 UPCT corporate game Tuks de Race.  The UPCT team developed this team building scavenger-hunt-type game which criss-crosses the Hatfield Campus to showcase the beautiful UP campus. The aim was to get the UP staff in their various departments and divisions out of their homes or offices, after a year of not being on campus, and into the fresh air back on campus, while having fun and exercising together. A lucky draw prize for this game, also coinciding with social prescribing, was a midweek breakaway to Mabalingwe Nature Reserve for a family to be in nature and a spiritually enriched getaway.

The international webinar welcomed numerous attendees “virtually” from across southern Africa, the UK, Europe as well as various ATLAS members from across the globe. Compliments were posted with one individual commenting: “A wonderful initiative that could be replicated elsewhere. Good job group of 2021” from Botswana University and a student from The Manchester Metropolitan University stating “Very interesting and good adaption to the current situation. Thank you”

UPCT 2021 concluded that the mental health and wellbeing of people across the globe can be a new focal point for the tourism industry. While the tourism industry has suffered seriously as a result of the pandemic, it is argued that a concerted effort to promote wellbeing through social prescribing with tourism as an option has great potential in the current and post Covid environment.   

The UPCT team believes they have made a difference with their “social prescribing” initiative and various types of tours at the University of Pretoria. They also hope that the initiative will serve as an inspiration to others in the tourism sector.

From left to right: Hannelize Schnepel, Michelle Bester, Nina Sieber, Sarah Gombele, Matshidiso Masaela, Kitso Matabologe, Caitlin Lindsell, Qiniso Phungula and Anamika Anamallay

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- Author Caitlin Paige Lindsell (University of Pretoria Campus Tours, Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, 2021)
Published by Ian Macqueen

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