Kennedy Tembo, the founder of Micro-Adventure Tours, has a profound love for his home city, Jo’burg. He left a successful career as an SAP consultant in 2018 to show South Africans the beauty of Johannesburg on his tours.
“I was so sick and tired of people at work telling me that Johannesburg is a dangerous city with nothing worthwhile to offer,” he says. “There are so many stigmas attached to Jo’burg, but I love this city, and I know the city has a great number of hidden tourism gems for people who take the time to discover them.”
Kennedy started showing friends and colleagues around the city. “When colleagues had visitors arriving from overseas or other parts of the country, they asked me to guide them through the city,” he laughs.
Kennedy’s AHA-moment that led him to dive head-first into the tourism industry was when he took a group of exchange students from the Netherlands around the city. “I told them I couldn’t offer them proper transport, but they didn’t mind. I put down some pillows in the back of my bakkie and took them to some local attractions, from my local barber to some of the local pubs, and they loved the experience and urged me to make a living out of it.”
What are some of the challenges you encountered when you first started your tourism business?
The most challenging aspect for me is costing. I love showing people my city and would gladly do it for free. When I decided to make a career out of what I loved, I had to put a price on it. That was very difficult, and I still struggle with it today.
Another challenge I’m facing is to find people who have the same passion as me. For the moment, I do all the tours myself. However, as the business grows, I might need to hire someone else, but I want to find someone who is as passionate as I am.
How did you start marketing your business?
I made a conscious decision to use the incredible reach of social media. I started with Facebook and then soon also started promoting the business on Instagram and Twitter. I always focus on quality instead of quantity and make sure the content I share talks to my core audience. I want to keep my followers engaged at all times, so I include them in the content I post.
For example, I organised a ‘Magical Jozi by Night’ recently, which has become one of my best-selling tours. When I came up with the idea for the trip, I asked people on social media to name it. I had over 60 different suggestions and picked the one that stood out the most.
My advice to people starting to market themselves on social media is to keep customer service top of mind. If someone comments, respond as soon as possible. Social media is hard work, but it’s worth it.
What are you offering travellers on the ‘Magical Jozi by Night’ Tour?
I take people to spaces of Jozi that are hot and happening at night. It’s all about partying I tell them to come ‘dressed to kill’ and to impress me. I don’t want jeans and ‘takkies’; I want them to dress to a tee.
We start with dinner at the Rand Club, and I take them to five other pubs and give my clients access to member-only areas as well as a rooftop venue where they have a view over the entire city.
Who are your primary customers?
My target market is local because I felt I need to break this stigma people have about their city. I bring new energy to the city.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to start a tourism business in the city?
What I would like to advise people is to be different from anyone else. Be who you are and be proud of it. Another piece of advice is to make sure that you know who your target market is.
Know your offering. Know what it is that you want to do. Know your ‘why’. What is the reason why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you in this market? For me, my ‘why’ is that I want to make sure I’m making a difference to the city and the people of Johannesburg.
What is the most beautiful feedback you have received from locals?
People tell me I’m an inspiration to the old and the young and that my experiences are new and refreshing. It’s charming to have this kind of feedback. Some days I still pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream and that it’s all happening.
What makes your offering genuinely unique, and what sets you apart from the rest?
I believe in starting where you are and extending from there. You have to know your own space. I won’t rush to Durban or Pretoria to do tours – I know Johannesburg.
I started in my suburb, Parktown. It’s such a beautiful and historical place. I read about Parktown and its Herbert Baker architecture. I found that Parktown is the second suburb Jo’burg ever had and the first suburb to have manicured gardens. Back in the days, the mine owners stayed in Parktown. There is so much rich history here.
I decided to pick a house: it is one of the oldest houses in the suburb and dates back to 1904. It was designed by Herbert Baker and has about a fifty-two bedrooms. The owners were this flamboyant couple. I talked to the curator, and he agreed that I could start my tours there.
Then, I started cycling tours, but I wanted to make it different. That’s why I launched the coffee cycling tour and after that a coffee walking tour. The coffee tours take travellers to local coffee shops in the CBD during the weekends – generating extra income for them. By the fourth coffee stop, people are buzzing with caffeine.
Do you have any heart-warming anecdotes you can share with us?
I recently took an American traveller around Johannesburg CBD and Hillbrow. She loved the tour and was amazed as to why Johannesburg had such a bad reputation. She went to the Kruger and met some South Africans. They were horrified she had been to the centre of Johannesburg – to ‘that dangerous place’. She told them she had been incredibly comfortable and had felt safe at all times.
She told me: “Kennedy, you have your work cut out for you to change the perceptions the people have. This is your challenge in life, and you have to run with it.”
What do you love most about your country?
The energy, the people! Out of any cosmopolitan city in the world, Jo’burg is the only place you can taste about 54 meals from different African countries. The heartbeat, the energy, the hustle and bustle is incredible. Our country is so beautiful!