It is not often that we are given the time to reflect on our industry, especially the issues that hold us back from our potential. We know that tourism offers such opportunities to make a huge difference in the lives of many South Africans. Has this current extreme hardship amongst our tourism businesses offered us a win-win opportunity to emrace and thrive in the future?
Let me firstly say passionately that my heart breaks for every business owner and employee who are struggling to survive and see no glimmer of hope at the moment. We have to do everything that we can to find a sustainable solution to keep the passion, experience and industry knowledge of those involved in tourism from being lost. The reality, though, is that inter-provincial travel is still some way off and the return to the 2019 international arrivals numbers could be a few years off.
We could do with some wins as we fight for survival! Two desperate challenges face us, especially amongst smaller tourism businesses. On the one hand, these businesses have the immediate need to survive the cash-crunch forced upon them by Covert-19. On the other hand, we have the decades-old challenge of creating meaningful transformation in the tourism industry. In the previously normal state of affairs, these two issues seemed worlds apart, especially as regards small businesses. Possibly the next normal offers an opportunity for saving businesses, achieving transformation and doing so with funds and capacity that already exist.
Government has shown some signs of a willingness to provide funding for tourism during this crisis, not a huge amount but some. Unspent budgets already exist in the Tourism Transformation Fund, in Development Corpotations and in Provincial/Local Government Tourism Departments. TBCSA has ring-fenced 15% of the TOMSA levies collected as a Collaberative Fund with the purpose of funding key strategic projects that are important for tourism businesses (TOMSA website article on 21 January 2019). I am sure that TBCSA would also focus a lot of energy on raising funding for the small businesses that are the heart and soul of our tourism in our country.
So here is my question. Could we be brave enough to create a win-win situation by simultaneously saving tourism businesses and achieving accelerated transformational partnerships in tourism? Can all stakeholders become a team and achieve a industry-changing success story? A Best of Both Worlds Partnership could match sustainable current small tourism businesses with complementary Black entrepreneurs and provide the cash-flow survival funding to benefit both parties in the partnership. Training, mentoring and marketing support could be supplied to improve the profitability of the venture. A standard set of conditions and operating procedures for the partnerships could be drafted fairly quickly by a body that already deals with such transactions and they could also possibly administer the process.
I know that this is a bit out there but it could create breakthrough results for transformation and will be a huge win for all of the stakeholders that make it happen. It could also lessen the resistance by many small tourism businesses to welcome partners as part of transformation and would create a momentum that will continue long after this crisis.
Imagine how we can save the tourism industries in smaller towns and rural areas. My heart would heal somewhat if we could pull this off. Many other heartaches may just be healed as well and we can celebrate that much-needed win!
Shaun van Eck is a tourism author, consultant and coach whose passion lies in local tourism. His business, The Tourism Coach, consults to and traines DMO’s and their local tourism entrepreneurs.