Tourism players across South Africa are facing an uphill battle to reconstruct an industry that was left in shatters by the COVID pandemic. However, with the right guidance from the industry, and the right tools in place, our industry has the opportunity to build a better and brighter future.
Jurni chatted to Fedhasa CEO Lee Zama to hear her advice on how tourism players can rebuild a better future.
What are the advantages for SMMEs to belong to an association such as Fedhasa, specifically during this challenging time?
Fedhasa is a lobby organisation on behalf of the industry that helps ensure that our industry can operate under ‘normalised’ conditions. We look into the laws imposed by the government during this COVID time, and we engage with government to ensure that the constraints are loosened and that businesses can operate.
Fedhasa organises training for small businesses, last year we arranged Food safety training which resulted from the changes in the Food Safety Act. To ensure Covid training we arranged the online training portal for businesses which is accessed for free. Fedhasa requested assistance from Jurni and the Tourism academy and their combined efforts to make sure this was made possible. There’s a critical shortage of maintenance skills in the industry for the moment, especially electricians etc. An essential mandate of Fedhasa is to ensure that skill development happens in the sector. We have discussed this with the government. We are fortunate to have a seat at the Cathsseta board, which we use effectively to look into the ways and means that we can assist the sector.
In March, we submitted comprehensive tourism and hospitality relief measures that the government should look into. These relief measures were submitted to the Department of Tourism, which they sent to the Treasury for consideration. Three major municipalities have come back and said, yes, they’ve got some relief measures. That is because of that additional pressure we’ve been putting on them. We’re expecting relief to come through to assist businesses and are in discussions on liquor licenses. The SABC licenses relief request is currently under consideration by ICASA.
How many SMMEs are part of Fedhasa?
We have over two thousand two hundred members. Just shy of 50 percent of that number represents SMMEs in the hospitality sector.
We probably don’t speak far and wide enough about the work we do in the background for the tourism sector to ensure that their voice is constantly heard.
What advice would you like to share with hospitality establishments? What are your main tips during this challenging time?
Firstly, we need to ensure that we apply safety protocols. That is the only way we can maintain and defend the sector to continue operating under these levels. Even if we had to go back to level three – and hopefully we’d still be operating – the sector needs shows a firm commitment in applying the protocols.
Secondly, we are working during very strange times. We don’t know when the vaccine is going to be released. For now, there’s a big move in using IT services in any sector. Small businesses need to explore ways to make things easier for themselves and their clients, even just for COVID registrations. By applying technology, this kind of information becomes a lot easier to retrieve instead of trying to find pieces of paper. Small businesses need to ensure they upload the information to the app –https://travelsafeeatsafe.co.za
Relevant IT can also help small businesses upgrade their operations in other areas. They can use technology to better market their services and stand out from the crowd. It’s likely going to be the way for this year for any marketing of any products and services.
How can small tourism businesses best attract travellers to their establishments and stand out from the crowd?
It’s crucial that small businesses align themselves with the local or provincial tourism authorities, whether it is Johannesburg Tourism or Gauteng Tourism. These departments have funds to assist small businesses to help them promote themselves. The industry is reeling from a horrible period. But even during ‘normal’ times, I would insist small companies align themselves with the tourism authorities. As a small business, you will probably not have the funds to fly people around the world to sell your business and attract new clients. This collaboration with tourism authorities will go a long way in assisting with marketing efforts.
How important is an online presence for SMMEs in the tourism sector?
You absolutely have to have your business online. Now, post-COVID, but also in any other time, online is the way to go. Your information needs to be updated at all times and needs to be easy to find; it needs to be accessible and provide the information with the traveller needs.
How can initiatives like Jurni help tourism players set themselves apart during this time?
Jurni has developed an excellent booking tool that the industry needs to know more about. The booking tool has the potential to support and uplift small businesses.
Secondly, the information and data hub will be an excellent tool for businesses right across the landscape of tourism in the country to use in terms of making investment decisions or any commercial decisions. That I think is going to be the next best thing for South Africa. Post-COVID, what’s more important, other than information?