Small businesses and startups in South Africa’s tourism space can thrive even as the country’s economy goes through tough times that could spell doom for other companies.
This is according to Anton Roelofse, regional general manager at South African risk finance firm Business Partners, who said through the storm clouds of a distressed economy the South African tourism industry stands out as a ray of sunshine.
Travel and tourism are expected to contribute 9.4 per cent to the GDP of South Africa in 2017, according to the PwC’s Hospitality outlook 2017-2021, while the latest Tourism and Migration report from Statistics SA found the number of overseas visiting South Africa was up 12.4 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2017.
Roelofse said small business owners operating in the sector need to be taking heed of the sector’s gaps and opportunities if they are to make the most of the opportunities available to them.
“Apart from Millennials, an increasing number of tourists are seeking out experience and adventure, rather than sightseeing or relaxing at the side of a pool. This trend needs to be taken into consideration and tapped into to continue attracting this new market,” he said.
Another trend shaping the industry, Roelofse said, is ecotourism.
“The recent drought ravaging the country, especially in the Western Cape, has had a negative impact on all sectors,” he said.
“Local tourism operations have to think about how to handle the drought with their clients, especially those with adventure tourism operations that depend on water levels. Tourists don’t want to shower less, and covered swimming pools are not enticing, making it a sensitive issue for tourism operators to grapple with.”
While the drought may be unique to South African tourism, sustainability is fast becoming a buzzword in the tourism sector, and rightfully so.
“If businesses and countries alike are to continue benefiting from the rewards and profits offered by the sector, we need to balance economic gains with sustainable environmental practices,” Roelofse said.
“Tourism businesses will need to tap into the trend of “ethical” or “responsible” tourism as the modern tourist is much more aware of the socio-economic and environmental impact of their travels. Increasingly, tourism businesses can impress their clients by showing them how their spending empowers communities and socio-economic development causes. It is in this context that tourists can be informed about the drought and water shortages, and how they can help by conserving water during their visit.”
To support the tourism sector on its growth trajectory, Roelofse says that South Africa’s tourism entrepreneurs need to keep providing good service, and offering authentic local experiences rather than passive sights and mere places to stay.