South African Tourism, stakeholders on SME development


South African Tourism and other stakeholders spoke about how they were helping the Hidden Gems in the country, during a live webinar.

tourism sme development travel
Programmes such as the Hidden Gems mainly chose to work with SMEs that offer unique experiences such as adventure and cultural activities, says Hannelie du Toit of Southern Africa Tourism Services Association. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Melissa Javan
The small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that were part of the Hidden Gems programme during Africa’s Travel Indaba earlier this year would have a three-year relationship with South African Tourism and other stakeholders, said Neil Nagooroo.

Nagooroo, South African Tourism’s general manager: strategic events and exhibitions, was speaking in a live webinar, “Engage with SA Tourism on SME development” held on Tuesday 28 June 2017. The webinar was hosted by the online tourism news platform, Daily Southern African Tourism Update.

To grow local SMEs globally

The relationship with the 90 SMEs on the Hidden Gems programme was part of the intention of SA Tourism and other stakeholders to help the businesses to grow internationally. Nagooroo said that they wanted to give the SMEs a platform to showcase their products or services at global conferences.

The Hidden Gems’ 90 businesses — 10 from each of the nine provinces — were the special focus of Africa’s Travel Indaba. The annual convention is held in May in Durban. Earlier this year, Sisa Ntshona, SA Tourism CEO, said a key focus of the Hidden Gems was to train and mentor SMEs, and help them with preferential access to influential industry players.

“For me, one of the Indaba’s highlights is our new Hidden Gems programme, which will help boost tourism by enabling smaller players. [The 90 small businesses are] emerging and existing enterprises are at least 50% black-owned,” Ntshona said.

The National Department of Tourism and the Southern African Tourism Services Association are working with SA Tourism on the programme. Through them, the entrepreneurs got exposure at the Indaba and had the opportunity to pitch their products and services to travel buyers during speed marketing sessions.

Nagooroo said the SMEs now understood how to run their businesses better. “We found in the past that challenges they had included not having the right tools to run their businesses. Also, they didn’t know how to network. Having them equipped is a phenomenal experience for us.”

tourism sme development travel and migration
In April 2017, the majority of tourists — 895 760 (97,5%) — were on holiday; 16 533 (1,8%) and 6 791 (0,7%) were here for business and for study, respectively according to Statistics South Africa’s tourism and migration report. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Growing the network

Septi Bukula of Osiba Management was a local buyer at this year’s Indaba. The company brings international conferences to South Africa. Clients often would ask them for certain tourism experiences, said Bukula, but his company did not have available services. Now it was working with SMEs with which it had connected at the Indaba.

“We were at the Indaba and after we heard that SA Tourism was undertaking SME development, we wanted to partner with SA Tourism. The Indaba was a useful experience for us.” Osiba Management now partnered with 14 of the businesses that exhibited at the tourism convention, and had set up a network with the SMEs.

“Our hope and intention is to grow the network and to expand it by bringing in more SME partners,” Bukula said, adding that his company told the small businesses that collaboration was key to growth.

Unique experiences such as opening up townships and heritage area sites were attractive to tourists, said Hannelie du Toit of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) in the webinar. “Those opportunities are being taken up. Interaction with humans — I think that’s what tourists are generally asking for.”

Adventure and cultural activities were popular. “If your product or service is similar to others, think about what is your unique selling proposition,” she advised. Du Toit also said that SMEs should look at collaborating with those in their communities.


Also this week, Statistics South Africa released its “Tourism and Migration” report for April 2017. In that month, more than 3.8 million people (arrivals, departures and transits) passed through South Africa’s ports of entry.

The data collected by the Department of Home Affairs show that in April 2017 the totals were made up of 1,068,065 South African residents and 2,773,454 foreign travellers. Foreign arrivals of 1,395,241 were made up of 85,768 non-visitors and 1,309,473 visitors, said Stats SA.

It also reported:

  • Overseas tourists (222,055) increased by 17,8%; in April 2016, the number was 188,491.
  • The highest increase, 50.5%, was in tourists from Germany (18,423 in April 2016 to 27,720 in April 2017), followed by Switzerland at 29,6% (from 4,320 to 5,600).
  • Tourists from the SADC (680,918) increased by 15,3% from 590,456.
  • The highest increase, 54,3%, was in tourists from Botswana (from 52,875 to 81,570), followed by Lesotho at 20,4% (from 132,161 to 159,175).
  • Tourists from other African countries (15,052) decreased by 5,9% from 15,996 in April 2016.
  • The highest increase, 14,0%, was in tourists from Uganda (from 983 to 1,121), followed by Ghana at 12,5% (from 1,316 to 1,480).
  • There were also 1,003 tourists whose countries of origin were unspecified.

Sources: South African Tourism, Indaba, Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, Statistics South Africa and Daily Southern African Tourism Update.

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