Load shedding comes up trumps as biggest hamper to growing small businesses

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Smaller and more well-established businesses in the tourism sector have put their best foot forward at the Africa Travel Trade Indaba in Durban. Over 20 countries are represented this year. The four-day meeting is a working business platform for Africa’s tourism industry to secure deals.

KwaZulu-Natal businesses from outside the sector are also capitalising on the opportunities to expose their brands to new markets.

Networking and exchanging business ideas dominated the second day of the Africa Travel Indaba. There are endless opportunities associated with the tourism sector, from cultural experiences to locally manufactured goods. Among the larger, more well-established tourism and hospitality brands, the smaller businesses are also vying for a piece of the pie.

Lunga Ntuli from KwaZulu-Natal says the Indaba has offered him a space to reach a new market.

“It is a proudly South African watch brand and our unique selling proposition is that our watches are made out of beads that what makes it unique and we try and communicate the message of love using beads. It has been amazing to exhibit our work, we got to make sales, we got to connect with the international market which is what we have looking for.”

Andrew Cloete from the Northern Cape says international tourists are keen to sample some traditional dishes from Namaqualand.

“We are cooking home based food, traditional Namaqualand home based food meeting urban food. What we are doing is going to the archives of our grandmothers and bringing it to the table. We don’t use Google or these new trends of urban foods and bringing the cultures of Nama food and the people and the international tourists together. There is a huge strength coming from international guests especially from southern America and the European side and they just like the taste and the hospitality of Namaqualand.”

KwaZulu-Natal’s hospitality industry says it suffered triple challenges, COVID-19, the 2021 civil unrest and last year’s floods that left devastating effects, especially on smaller businesses. The new Aloe Lifestyle Hotel in Eshowe on the province’s north coast says it has been tough to keep the doors open.

Neliswa Ndimande of the hotel says the challenges have felt overwhelming at times.

“COVID-19 was unknown and it presented a whole new dynamic to the hospitality industry and we were trying to find our feet and now having to deal with these challenges that are unexpected. It was difficult to say the least with the lockdown and the looting and the floods it was one disaster after another because now we are faced with the power situation where there is constant load shedding which affects not only electricity but water as well. What we try to do is to get that alternative source of power, get an alternative source of water to try and keep our doors open.”

Load shedding is however a major challenge.

Thulsie Pather from the Golf Course Boutique Guesthouse in Mount Edgecombe, north of Durban, says the cost of diesel for their generators to keep the lights on, as being among their main challenges.

“We are picking up in business however with the current load shedding problem we have difficulties because we do have a generator but having to put on a generator all the time is very costly and after COVID we cannot increase our prices. People are not prepared to pay more prices for a guesthouse because we are a small business, because we are new, I am hoping for more exposure at Travel Indaba, I am hoping to network with other people.”

The trade show is a valuable opportunity for the smaller role-players to introduce themselves to some of the most influential buyers from across the world.