The Gauteng Department of Economic Development invited 30 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) from the province to exhibit at this year’s INDABA, most of which are either winners of the department's entrepreneur awards or the Lilizela Tourism Awards.
"All the SMMEs represented here today have worked hard to earn their places with us at INDABA," says Mpho Ngwenya, tourism development officer at the Gauteng Department of Economic Development.
"We work in tandem to grow small businesses in Gauteng province: the department’s responsibility is to mentor and develop the SMMEs, while the Gauteng Tourism Authority’s role is to secure marketing opportunities at events like INDABA, the World Tourism Market and Meetings Africa."
The SMMEs include tour operators, accommodation owners and township tour organisers from all five regions of Gauteng: Sedibeng, Johannesburg, Tshwane, the West Rand and Ekurhuleni.
"When we were making our selection, we endeavoured to cover a range of small businesses. We included the youth, women and persons with disabilities in our province," says Ngwenya.
In order to choose deserving beneficiaries, the department held competitions for small businesses in lesser-known townships in which the owners had to come up with unique tourism experiences.
For the team from Stimela Brewing Co., INDABA 2017 is a great networking opportunity. According to brand and marketing manager Boitumelo Chounyane, they’ve met many interesting people and made several good business contacts.
Stimela currently brews four different craft beers – a stout, amber ale, weiss beer and lager – in Alrode in southern Johannesburg, and it is soon to launch its own gin.
Several of the SMMEs exhibiting at INDABA are not only doing business for the sake of earning an income, but also to give back to their communities. Most of the tours that Soweto-based tour operator Emthunzini offers are aimed at disadvantaged school children, while Oukasi in Mohlakeng, Westonaria, offers tours for the deaf.
"One of the best tours, which the kids love, is a trip to the Lion and Safari Park. They can play with the cubs, and then we take them to a reptile park, too. We also take kids to the Cradle of Humankind and Soweto," says Emthunzini admin manager Khosi Zikalala.
Zikalala's face lights up when talking about a job she clearly loves, and the children she spends time with: "Especially the smaller ones ... eish ... I don’t know how to say it. I see myself when I was young. They learn something from me; I learn something from them ... We want to give back to the community.
Sengo Seneka and Matebogo Victoria from Oukasi offer walking tours in the Mohlakeng township – often for people who are deaf or those who have hearing impairments. Victoria, who is deaf herself, teaches tourists about the area’s history and art.
Says Senaka: "We focus on deaf customers because they experience a lot of challenges with other tours. Even if they can go on tours, who explains to them [what they are seeing]?"
The Oukasi restaurant – a stop along the tour – also has an art gallery and wall of fame featuring pictures of late soccer star Ace Ntsoelengoe and well-known singer and actress Dolly Rathebe, both originally from the township.
Avenue Destination of Excellence has just completed a year in business and this is the team's first INDABA.
"We have found it very beneficial as independent entrepreneurs to meet with new people and potential clients," says director Thina Litshani.
"INDABA has exposed us to a market that we would not have been able to reach by ourselves, such as buyers from Switzerland and Madagascar. It has also enabled us to introduce our offering to the industry as a whole."
- Visit the Gauteng SMME stand (ICC A27) and the GTA stand (DEC1 D43) at INDABA 2017.