Kathleen Aerts left the showbiz world in Belgium years ago for a life as a tour operator in South Africa. She and her husband Steven run the travel agency StievieWonderTours. With Roadtrippers of the Sun she talks about her life there and how she is currently experiencing the corona crisis.
Kathleen and her family are doing just fine under the circumstances. Of course, they have been hit as a travel agency because they generate their income from the commissions at hotels and guesthouses. But they don’t grieve too much. Aerts has a good eye on the future for travel. People will be travelling en masse again next year and that makes up for that lost time. Now she is mainly concerned with tasks that are otherwise left behind.
Aerts is also very proud of how the South African government is handling the crisis. They are strict, communicate clearly and have acted quickly at the beginning (as early as February), which means that only 11 000 infections of the 50 million inhabitants have now been measured. Especially in places like the townships, where people live close to each other, it is a good thing that the virus has spread only limited. The measures to contain the virus are still in place. Previously, the population was no longer allowed to play outdoors. That’s allowed back now, but only between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. Selling cigarettes and alcohol is temporarily prohibited. This is to keep the hospital beds free for victims of the virus and to reduce further lung problems and other complications. At the airport at the beginning of the crisis, the temperature of all passengers was already measured. We can therefore say that in South Africa they go a step further than in Belgium in terms of measures.
Furthermore, a premium has been provided by the government for the affected people from the tourism sector, including the employees of StievieWonderTours. Just like in Belgium. Although that premium is not so high in South Africa. Aerts and her husband therefore pay their employees, in addition to the government premium, in part. They think it’s important that they can keep their employees. They need their team.
About South Africa
Aerts fell in love with South Africa 20 years ago. According to her, the country has so much to offer and is a perfect fit for her and her family. She has visited several corners of the world including Australia and Thailand, but in South Africa she felt right at home. The mix between the modern life she knows from Europe and the charm of Africa appealed to her. It is a beautiful melting pot of European standards in terms of comfort and luxury but with that African touch. Many people think South Africa is a third world country, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have already experienced that it is a very progressive country.
Aerts also sees challenges for South Africa, of course. Especially the conditions in the many townships seize on her. She also notices a difference between black and white, but she sees a positive evolution with 20 years ago. Back then, the black population was never seen as a customer in restaurants and the attractive jobs were exclusively for the white population. Fortunately, that’s different now.
Her favorite places in South Africa are the unknown pearls and places where she unexpectedly ends up. Jozini Lake, for example, is one such place. Here you will find unspoilt nature where you can enjoy without other tourists. It’s still very authentic. She likes to take her travellers to places like this.
Kathleen AERTS Bucket list
Aerts still travels often and gladly. It’s part of her job. They travel all year round to discover new places they can introduce to their customers. Everything they offer, they have experienced themselves. That’s why at StievieWonderTours you always have to deal with quality experiences. They also always work to the customer’s needs, for both group and individual trips. The customer passes on his wishes and on that basis a travel proposal is made. Only backpackers better compose their own journey. They honestly say they don’t have enough experience with this. There is also something for all price ranges.
The advantage of a good travel agency? Your holiday is arranged to perfection by professionals and that gives you peace of mind. At StievieWonderTours they are committed to fast, honest and accessible communication to customers. For example, you can expect an initial travel proposal within two days of request. A trip to South Africa doesn’t always have to be expensive. Based on your preferences and financial possibilities, a trip is put together. Currently, StievieWonderTours offers tours in 3 countries, namely Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Kathleen and Steven would like to expand in the coming years. Travel outside the province is not currently permitted because of the corona measures, but as soon as it is allowed back they want to discover new regions.
On Aerts her bucket list showing off top of the gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda. She would like to visit these amazing animals this year or next year. She also enjoys road trips with her family. They like to discover what there is to do and experience while driving. The African countries continue to find them fascinating.
Aerts made South Africa her home but Belgium is still work-related. Every year she is present at holiday fairs. She doesn’t have to think long about a favorite place in Belgium. De Kempen, her birthplace, remains a favourite. She used to live near tongerlo abbey. As a teenager she came to rest there and it is very cozy to stay there. The old buildings speak for themselves and make it a charming place. Nature reserve de Beeltjens (and Kwarekken) recommends them for nature lovers. You can take beautiful walks in the forest. Domain Den Asberg is fun for families or people who love good food and drink. A walk from Tongerlo to Averbode is also highly recommended. We know where to go this summer!