TSHEPO MATLOU | The Jurni to tourism recovery starts with technology
A tourism department initiative is partnering with entrepreneurs to help them grow their presence online
The SA tourism industry has to do some serious damage control. The sector has been decimated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign arrivals dropped by more than 70% in 2020, a grim figure for an industry that contributed about 6.9% of GDP in 2019. It’s now time for us to roll up our sleeves and rebuild.
Local travel businesses have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to keep their heads above water and there’s been much collaboration among entrepreneurs to sustain livelihoods. Another way for businesses and travellers to resuscitate the country’s battered tourism industry is by leveraging the internet and technology. After a trying 18 months, South Africans are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with our vaccination drive in full swing and more and more international borders reopening.
Since our move to level 2 lockdown on September 12, this country’s citizens have shown their eagerness to travel, with flight searches spiking by 134% in the week of the announcement, according to online booking site Cheapflights.
Our booking hub is not only a standalone service; we seek to partner with entrepreneurs who need guidance. For this reason, we empower business owners we work with through community huddles.
With more than 16-million vaccines administered, local businesses need to prepare for a potentially successful summer. After suffering an enormous hit, the industry’s recovery needs to be fuelled by technology. Many local businesses were venturing into the virtual space, albeit conservatively, just before the pandemic, with quite a few tourism offerings establishing presences on social media. These businesses need consistency and creativity to be effective and, by learning more about the power of technology and the internet, entrepreneurs can succeed.
As part of the Jurni team, I have had the privilege of witnessing the power of working online. Jurni is a company implementing the National Tourism Visitor Information System of the department of tourism, managed by Motsamayi Tourism Group and testament to the power of an online presence.
Our work is for locals, by locals. It’s also important to acknowledge the barriers many experience in establishing themselves online. Some people are only now familiarising themselves with social networking sites, while others don’t have any experience managing digital business platforms.
Our booking hub is not only a stand-alone service; we seek to partner with entrepreneurs who need guidance. For this reason, we empower business owners we work with through community huddles. Our huddles are effective, practical sessions that aim to educate and inspire entrepreneurs with new ways to effectively market their businesses.
As we rebuild our economy, we need to start building up the entrepreneurs who keep the wheels turning. So-called informal businesses have the potential to become great contributors, not only to the tourism industry, but to our growth as a country.
Tshepo Matlou is head of marketing and communications at Jurni.