Tourism indaba boosts Gauteng SMEs | Fin24

Tourism indaba boosts Gauteng SMEs

Mar 25 2016 15:37

Johannesburg – Preparing and taking SME tourism products to market topped the agenda during South Africa’s first SME Tourism Indaba held recently in Gauteng.

The two-day event saw 51 carefully selected and prepared emerging Gauteng tourism businesses given an opportunity to showcase their offering to 37 established inbound operators through speed marketing and site visits, a platform that to date was not available to them.

Mentorship and making SME tourism product more accessible were a core focus for this inaugural initiative, according to David Frost, CEO of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa).

“Overwhelmingly positive responses were received from both inbound operators and SMEs attesting to Satsa’s belief that this was a much needed intervention. To make a more meaningful impact to industry transformation our ability to directly link smaller players with established inbound operators have borne fruit with 239 new relationships developed,” said Frost.

One of the key features tour operators would like to see is that the SME members be enrolled into a mentorship programme, according to Tour d’Afrique’s Monet Tiran. “It seems that there is definite need that these members would like to learn from the industry on a peer-to-peer basis, rather than a ‘teaching’ scenario.”

Zilko Tours and Travel’s Liz Kariuki-Konzolo supports peer-to-peer learning, having not only established relationships with the more established trade, but also with fellow SMEs during the SME Tourism Indaba.
“My big realisation was that ‘business is also among us’. I now have potential business coming my way from one of the guesthouse owners who has a group of friends that want to take a tour with us and vice versa, we are now keen to sell more SME products after interacting with the owners and got to know more about their products,” she said.

Tour operators who attended said SME members would benefit more if they had a structure or advice on how to present their products to learn how to explain their unique USPs and also understand the requirements from the travel trade.

“Lots of the SMEs struggled to present themselves, sell themselves and their uniqueness. On question: ‘What makes them different to the other 20 suppliers of the same product?’ most of them could not comment,” said Fairfield Tours’ Juliane Loubser.

“Ideally, giving mentorship to SMEs and including them in our itineraries should be seen as the main part of transformation which adds to our (B-BBEE) Scorecard. This is far more beneficial to black communities” and reflective of “real transformation.”

In Frost's view, these "domestic" indabas should be rolled out to other provinces as they can assist in identifying the best of the best local products to then take them forward to the annual Tourism Indaba in Durban.

“Satsa will be pursuing these partnerships and is happy to have embarked on this path initially with the Gauteng Tourism Authority,” he said.

The SME Tourism Indaba initiative comes as the Amended Tourism Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Sector Code has been handed over to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, signalling the start of an integrated industry-wide process to transform the tourism sector.

Transformation is a pressing issue in South Africa, added Frost. It is incumbent on all of us to look for innovative ways to bring people and businesses of colour into the mainstream of tourism.  

“Satsa has taken the lead in conceptualising an intermediate marketplace where emerging product can meet with inbound operators in an environment that allows for an informed discussion about the market readiness of the products," he explained.

"Our objective is to allow inbound operators to evaluate SME product that may appeal to their overseas clients, thereby, to use the traditional parlance, ‘get the product into brochures', so that Herr Schultz can book the experience in the travel agency in Dusseldorf as part of his SA holiday.”



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