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How to start a tourism business in South Africa

We're all Business

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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The tourism industry is fun, rewarding and constantly evolving. South Africa relies on the influx of tourists to our shores, making tourism big business. According to the latest Tourism and Migration Survey released by Stats SA, almost 3.5 million travelers passed through South African ports of entry in August 2017 alone. The survey also found that 97% of people travel to South Africa for a holiday, while the rest come for business and study purposes.

In a report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in September 2017, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP of South Africa is expected to grow by 2.5% to R412.2bn (9.4% of GDP) by the end of this year.
With these figures in mind, if you are a South African with tourism business ideas then you are in the right place. If you want others to love your corner of the world as much as you do – and if you want to make a living doing something you love – then there is a good chance that your tourism business will be a great success. 

Your tourism start-up

All you need to start a travel business is an out-of-the-box idea that hasn’t been explored before. Itineraries, flights and accommodation can all be done by travelers from their laptops. So with a digital focus, look for a gap in the market. While there is still plenty of space for knowledgeable tour guides, there are innovative new companies like Airbnb turning the industry on its head. Websites such as Ideas Watch provide a space where people post tourism startup ideas and get feedback from entrepreneurial minds the world over. Share your ideas and get inspired. 

Licensing and registration

Starting with a good tour and travel business plan is vital, as is a plan for getting through any red tape to ensure you are fully compliant with your province’s licensing and registration regulations.

According to the Western Cape Government website, there are categories of registration for tourist guides that can be found under the Tourist Guide Act. You can get the requirements you would need to operate legally from your Provincial Registrar of Guides.

To apply for registration as a legal travel guide in your province you will need the following:

  1. A certified copy of your ID or passport
  2. Four colour photographs – passport size
  3. A copy of your work permit if you are not a South African citizen
  4. The prescribed fee
  5. Certified copies of your qualifications
  6. Current registration details (if with SATOUR or other Associations)
  7. A signed copy of a code of conduct (obtainable from the Provincial Registrar)

The right funding option for your travel and tours business

There are a number of organisations that provide finance and funding advice for travel and tourism startups. Tourism Enterprise Programme (TEP) is a government investment incentive that supports and encourages the growth of tourism facilities. Business Partners focuses on providing funding for small and medium enterprises, and the IDC Tourism Fund aims to establish good quality hotels in South Africa and on the continent.

Useful hints and tips when starting a tourism business

Being able to communicate in more than one language is one way to improve your chances of success in the tourism industry, so brush up on your French, German or Dutch. The work might take you into rural communities and it’s vital you build trust and co-operation within the community. This helps to promote a positive atmosphere as well as open up opportunities for collaborations with local artisans.