Why were Greg Smith and Richard de la Rey nominated?

Greg & Richard

If you’re part of the tourism industry, chances are that checking in with #tourisminmyblood has been part of your daily social media routine for almost a year now. But what you might not know – and this is by design – is that this Facebook group was founded by two travel sales and marketing gurus – Greg Smith of 360 Online and Richard de la Rey of Dark Giraffe Marketing.

Greg and Richard were nominated by Viv Cannan, who launched a not-for-profit podcast during lockdown called Aha Africa. When interviewing them, she says she was struck by their positivity, resilience and commitment to keeping everyone in the tourism industry connected and working together through #tourisminmyblood. “They are both true super-lifters, most deserving of this nomination for shining bright when the world went dark overnight, reminding us that we are resilient beings and that our connections with one another will see us through these dark days and back into the light,” says Viv.

Who are Greg and Richard?

Richard de la Ray first entered the industry as a guide at a private game reserve in Mpumalanga, and after that, took a brief hiatus from tourism before an old guiding friend reached out with an opportunity to work in sales up in Johannesburg for a lodge in the Sabi Sand. “I eventually started my own representation business back in 1998 and have been in the industry ever since,” says Richard.

Similarly, Greg has been in the industry for “as long as he can remember” working in various sales and marketing positions. He now runs his own business focusing on digital marketing and has been busy working on an exciting venture during these covid times, which he will be taking to the market soon. “Travel has always been in my blood,” he says. These two tourism aficionados eventually crossed paths, and as Greg puts it: “My life changed that day!”.

How did #tourisminmyblood come about?

Greg was the one who originally came up with the idea of setting up the group, and he started in April last year by just sending an invite to 60 of his personal Facebook contacts that worked in the industry. “Within two days, we had over 5 000 people following the page,” says Greg, with the page now nearing 16 000 followers.

He attributes #tourisminmyblood’s success to the fact that it resonates with the right people. Very importantly, both agreed that the group shouldn’t become a place for people to self-promote – with Richard becoming known as the unofficial “Page Policeman”.

Richard admits that this was difficult, especially during these times when people are doing all they can to try and eke out a living. But the success of the group can be attributed to its content. Richard says: “I remember one of the slogans that came out when the page was first launched was ‘We are all in this together’. Our page was exactly about that – a place to share ideas, concerns and plot the way forward. Self-promotion posts can clutter a page and we wanted to make sure that #tourisminmyblood was about sharing knowledge on what’s happening in tourism around the world.” With new requests still coming in on a daily basis, it’s clear that their group has filled an important gap during the pandemic – and beyond.

How do they feel about being nominated as super-lifters?

Although it’s an honour to be nominated, both are clear that the group isn’t there to place them in the limelight, but rather provide a platform that everyone can benefit from. “I’m sure there are lots of connections that have happened that we aren’t even aware of,” says Greg. “From relationships formed to business deals done – it would be nice down the line to ask followers what they got from being a member of the group.

Looking ahead, Greg says he’s continually amazed at how the #tourisminmyblood continues to grow. “Originally, I didn’t even think we’d get 1 000 members. I really hope it creates a legacy and that we can come out of covid closer and stronger. And maybe when we all meet at Indaba or WTM once the pandemic is over, we show we’re part of the community with a #tourisminmyblood t-shirt, cap or bag!” concludes Greg.

Watch our conversation with Greg and Richard here.

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