The key to transformation

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Over the busy summer holiday season Cape Town Tourism pioneered a media initiative that changed the way readers understood the industry. Instead of using the opportunity to talk about statistics, Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy offered the ‘little people’ working in tourism a platform to discuss their dreams and experiences.

This form of storytelling gave individuals such as Ubizo Tours owner Sabu Siyaka a voice, one that tapped into the theme of transformation in tourism. As Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom remarked recently, the industry is one sector where entrepreneurs can flourish in South Africa, generating employment and providing skills and experience to historically disadvantaged individuals.

From ticket collectors to owners of small businesses, their compelling stories inspired newspaper readers. Duminy, a skilled businessman and marketer whose goal is to see opportunities turned into realities for tourism companies throughout Cape Town, told BBQ in an exclusive interview, that the initiative opened doors for transformation in the industry and highlighted how tourism is a fantastic environment where black entrepreneurs can flourish.

Can you please tell us more about the initiative?

We initiated a non-commercial media partnership with Gasant Abarder of the Cape Argus that allowed us weekly exposure in the newspaper during the holiday season. As an organisation we took the decision to use the space to highlight our members, tourism professionals, who don’t always enjoy media exposure. Every year readers hear about the facts and figures, but we wanted to show that the real faces behind tourism are ordinary people who make significant sacrifices over the summer in order to provide those unforgettable experiences for visitors. The campaign involved nine full-page print interviews written up as first-person stories, online reproductions, remarkable photographs and short video clips of each person interviewed. We named it the ‘Back to the Floor’ campaign as we would be exploring tourism right where it was happening. I also participated by joining in on tours and chatted to the tour operators and visitors, something I don’t always have the opportunity to do from my office. So I had first-hand experience of the challenges facing tour operators over season.

Where did the idea about storytelling come from?

One factor for success in tourism is the human element, being able to chat to people and learn their stories. We know that many of the individuals we come into contact with have some fascinating stories about how they came to be in tourism. We wanted them to share their personal stories rather than their business pitches; readers love to hear about what makes ordinary people tick.

What did you hope to achieve by doing this?

Many of our tourism professionals come from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. Our aim was to show that there are two possible routes to success in the industry. One can start at the bottom and develop the skills and experience to become a senior staff member, or one can take the plunge with a great concept and become an entrepreneur. By highlighting their stories, we are providing them with a voice, as well as letting readers know that tourism is full of career opportunities.

The small business owners have compelling stories about the industry; how does the industry involve businesses and transform emerging entrepreneurs?

Very few tourism businesses operate in a vacuum. Accommodation businesses, for example, rely on shuttle services and food and beverage suppliers. Tour operators get to know the businesses on their routes, often collaborating to provide special deals for visitors. This ripple effect passes through entire communities in that it provides more job opportunities and provides an income to peripheral businesses as well. Cape Town Tourism, as an organisation, exists for the benefit of the members, to give them various platforms from which to market their products.

Can you tell us about your goal and visions to see opportunities turned into realities for tourism companies throughout Cape Town?

Cape Town has experienced steady growth in tourism numbers with direct tourism spend increasing by R1.5 billion from 2012 to 2014, according to Grant Thornton, increasing from R14.4 billion in 2012 to R15.6 billion in 2014. Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has noted that about 1, 5 million people are employed in the tourism sector in South Africa, directly and indirectly. According to Stats SA’s satellite account, in 2013, 655 000 people were directly involved in producing goods and services provided by tourists and that tourism arrivals in South Africa have grown from 3.9 million in 1994 to 8.9 million in 2015. This growth means that more products can be offered to cater for these tourists and that more jobs will be created in Cape Town. I’d like to see those in tourism sharing their skills within communities and working alongside others to develop business partnerships.

Please explain how tourism can be a fantastic environment for black entrepreneurs such as Sabu Siyaka, one of the participants, to flourish?

Sabu Siyaka started his business with nothing but an idea. He had no business card or website. He worked hard to find out what he needed as a business plan and marketed his concept well. Entrepreneurs like Sabu can start a thriving business by seeing a gap in the market and creating a product that fits it. You don’t necessarily need financial backing on a grand scale, but you need to have that passion for what you do. Sabu runs township tours and events and his business benefits eight other local businesses. Another example of a great concept is Ozzie’s Golf Guide. Ozzie noticed that hotels needed someone to provide their guests with the opportunity to have a round or two of golf while visiting, so he created a business around that need. It has grown to the point that he has trained and employed others in his business.

Please tell us about the current state of transformation within Cape Town Tourism and tourism in general in SA?

The best way for any business or association to take transformation seriously is to make it a strategic goal alongside profit goals. It should not be seen as an HR line function, but as a strategic goal, which it could drive internally. If every business and association could make this necessary positive change and investment into transformation, then imagine how significant the collective impact would be. I use my position to change our organisational transformation from within and with support and guidance from the board, we drive change within our members. Our Board Development Fund was created with transformation in mind. Cape Town Tourism’s Directors have donated their annual remuneration to a fund to assist historically disadvantaged tourism businesses. The board selects worthy recipients to receive R50 000 in cash and we also provide business, marketing and coaching support in excess of a quarter of a million rand annually. There’s still much work to be done. The disparities are huge and can be disheartening, but across South Africa tourism provides opportunities for employment, skills development, job creation and sustainable business creation.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom recently said that the industry is one sector where entrepreneurs can flourish in South Africa. What can entrepreneurs do to achieve this?

There are gaps in the industry if you look for them. We are increasingly seeing niche tourism opportunities being developed, such as Ozzie’s golf tourism concept for example. If you have a great idea and a way to take it to a place where the visitors are, you’re already ahead of the game.

What can black entrepreneurs like Sabu Siyaka of Ubizo Tours do to flourish?

What we’ve noted is that businesses are finding more success in this economic climate if they partner with other businesses. Trying to do everything in isolation can undermine your ability to provide a service, but partnering adds value to your product as well as benefitting other businesses. It also provides a safeguard if there are tough times in the industry.

Can you brief us about the untapped transformation opportunities that are available in tourism in South Africa?

Keep up with global trends: there are many tourism trends yet to be picked up on in South Africa, and our international and local visitors’ habits change. Read up on those trends, stay ahead of the pack and provide cutting-edge service. There are plenty of articles available via social media platforms as well as tourism trade titles. Our local flavor is what attracts visitors, we have immense opportunities to highlight our wide variety of cultural offerings. We can provide our own unique take on global trends in a way that provides opportunities for others. Sustainability is a buzzword; many businesses are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and their reliance on water and electricity. This involves skills development, training and infrastructural enhancement, all of which can increase the responsibilities of staff. Top-level executives in many tourism organisations are black, and continuing to provide training and advancement opportunities to black professionals will see transformation taking place.

How can people access those opportunities?

If you attend travel trade shows and conferences, you can make friends and strategic partnerships with similar-minded people. Networking is extremely valuable in the industry and can lead to opportunities. You can also research online or attend short courses, where you’ll meet inspired and inspiring people.

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Issue 68