Hot air balloon tourism pioneer Bill Harrop dies of Covid-19 complications

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Hot air balloon tour operator Bill Harrop has died of Covid-19 complications.
Hot air balloon tour operator Bill Harrop has died of Covid-19 complications.
@scenictravelza, Twitter
  • Hot air balloon tour operator Bill Harrop has died of Covid-19 complications.
  • He died a week after his wife, Mary.
  • Tributes have poured in for Harrop, who was active in the industry for more than 40 years.

Tributes have poured in for tourism entrepreneur Bill Harrop, credited with pioneering hot air balloon tourism in South Africa.

Harrop died of Covid-19 complications on Sunday, only a week after his wife, Mary.

READ | Stock up on coffins, undertakers advised, as Covid-19 fatalities increase in the Western Cape

In a social media post, Harrop's daughter, Sarah Bauling, described him as her hero and best friend.

"This 'storm' came at him with everything it had. He fought hard, he gave it his all, he did not 'stand down"... but sadly it simply swept him away. Our lives will never be the same," Bauling wrote.

"We are wrecked knowing that this world has lost a man who gave so much, laughed so easily and lived every second to the fullest. Dad, you were and always will be remembered as an 'intrepid aeronaut explorer'. Your enthusiasm for life was contagious and you created and left so many amazing memories for others," Bauling wrote.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said Harrop was the founder of the longest established tour operator in the country, Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris.

Harrop began operating in 1981 and took travellers on countless aerial sightseeing experiences over the Magalies River Valley.

"He was a vibrant soul and played a significant role in the tourism industry over many years as a mentor and guide. He strove to provide excellent, safe and reliable service to both local and international travel enthusiasts looking for some real adventure. As we mourn this great icon, we will always be encouraged by his devotion and immense contribution to the sector and to the country in general," Kubayi-Ngubane said.

Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) CEO David Frost said Harrop had been a member of the organisation for more than 40 years.

"There was not a role that Bill didn't play in Satsa over the 40 years and 17 days exactly that he was a member. From exco, to chapter, to committee member, to Satsa treasurer, he was an integral part of the fabric of our association nationally and locally," Frost said.

"A legend, an icon, a hero, an unforgettable man. Bill, your name will forever be spoken with reverence and love in the halls of the tourism industry."

He added that Harrop had lived a "full, vibrant and exciting life".

Harrop is survived by his two children and four grandchildren.

A memorial service has been planned for Saturday.

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