SMEs across all sectors have been affected by COVID-19, no more than the tourism sector.
The sector now faces a potential 75% revenue reduction in 2020, with 438,000 jobs at risk, this is according to Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
There are hopes that sector may recover with South Africa entering Level 2 which allows for local travel.
Opportunities for local tourism SMEs
According to Sisa Ntshona, South African Tourism CEO, COVID-19 may present some opportunities for local establishments with more tourists choosing to frequent small tourism businesses.
“As visitors want to explore destinations less travelled, avoid crowds and take road trips rather than risk flying there are opportunities for individual travel guides, shuttle services, and one-person operators to tailor experiences to these preferences.”
In an effort to help to revitalise the sector, SME South Africa has put a list of 30 tourism SMEs you should know about and support.
Please note: It’s important to observe the necessary COVID-19 precautions, including wearing of masks, washing hands and still maintaining social distancing .
1. The Box Shop – ‘Shopping Mecca in the heart of Soweto’
Located at the top of Soweto’s famous Vilakazi Street and with another location in Midrand, this lifestyle retail outlet concept and small business incubator offers a space for local entrepreneurs to sell their products, including fashion, food, cosmetics, accessories and furniture.
The primary target market is the millions of people who come to the historic Vilakazi Street. The Midrand location offers the possibility and promise of a new base mainly made up of up-and-coming young professionals who are living and working in the surrounding area.
2. Croc City Crocodile & Reptile Park – ‘Adventure with a message’
At Croc City Crocodile & Reptile Park, visitors can take part in activities such as holding a baby crocodile, touching exotic snakes and getting up close and personal with a tarantula.
Croc City, which were founded by Anton and Marietjie Lötter, started off as a commercial crocodile farm and has since changed focus over the years to educate people about the conservation of indigenous reptiles.
3. Soweto Backpackers ‘An interactive tour shared with the community’
Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers was founded by Lebo Malepa. He involves the local community to offer tourists an authentic Soweto experience through the following, a bicycle tour, a Tuk-Tuk tour, a walking tour, or through a food and cooking experience.
There is also accommodation available at the backpackers lodge, the self-catering guest house and a campsite.
4. Maboneng ‘The City of Lights at it’s best’
There are multiple ways to support small and local in this inner-city tourist destination. From art walks (www.mabonengprecinct.com), landmark murals and sculptures, Main Street Walks (www.mainstreetwalks.co.za) and galleries. Also to see are many cafés and restaurants, including Blackanese, offering Japanese specialities with a distinctly African spin founded by restaurant entrepreneur, Vusi Kunene.
5. Seven Sisters Winery – ‘A Unique vineyard experience’
Located in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, Seven Sisters Winery is a family business which produces quality wines for local and international markets.They are one of the few black-owned wineries based in Stellenbosch.
Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting in their Tasting Room which doubles as a restaurant and popular wedding venue.
6. Siviwe Tours – ‘An authentic township experience’
Founded and owned by Siviwe Mbinda, a Langa local, Siviwe Tours aims to introduce the true face and culture of Langa, Cape Town’s oldest black township, to a wider audience.
Visitors can learn more about township residents’ culture, lifestyle and history. Private tours are possible on request and can be tailored to suit your preferences.
Siviwe Tours currently ranks number 10 of 811 tours on Tripadvisor in the following categories: Cape Town Central, Cultural Tours and Walking Tours.
7. Bo-Kaap Cooking Tour ‘Cape Malay cultural tours’
Learn how to create a variety of Cape Malay dishes and also how mix Masala for a pot of Cape Malay Curry. The Cape Malay Cultural Tours & Cooking Classes gives visitors a glimpse into the life, food and culture of the Cape Malay’s, offering a hands-on, practical lesson on how to cook like a real Cape Malay ‘Auntie’.
8. Bikes ‘N Wines – ‘Best of winelands living’
Bikes ‘n Wines is a bicycle tour operator, cycle boutique and café in the heart of downtown Cape Town. They run guided bicycle and walking wine tours through the Cape’s famous winelands.
On their website they write, “Our guests enjoy some of the finest local wine tastings and food pairings the region has to offer while pedalling or walking through exclusive wine estates.”
9. Aukwatowa Tours ‘A heritage site worth seeing ‘
Aukwatowa Tours is a family business, owned and run by Conrad Mouton, a tour operator based in Port Nolloth. Mouton and his team of guides allow visitors to experience some of the following: Namakwa flowers, botanic safaris, heritage sites on shuttle services or 4×4 vehicles, hiking trails and cultural safaris through the Namakwaland, Karoo, Richtersveld, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Diamond Coast.
10. Workshop ko Kasi ‘Hidden gem’
Workshop ko Kasi is described as an “eco-tourism hub that provides culinary experiences and spiritual wellness retreats”.
Founded by entrepreneur Mpho Cornelius in 2016, Workshop ko Kasi is located in the township of Mothibistad in Kuruman in the Northern Cape. Some of the attractions of the hub include a local cuisine café, an African Eco Spa. Their other services include culture and nature tours, camping retreats and pop up events.
11. !AE! Hai Kalahari Heritage Park ‘Best sky views’
The !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park is managed by a joint management board comprising representatives of the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities and South African National Parks (SANParks). The aim of the park is to preserve the cultural and traditional knowledge of these indigenous communities, while improving their opportunities to earn a sustainable livelihood.
Some of activities with the ‡Khomani San include traditional San song and dance, animal tracking with trackers and guides, heritage trails and the living museum.
!Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park has been declared an international dark sky sanctuary – it is one of the best areas for viewing pristine night skies.
12. Graskop Gorge Lift ‘Breathtaking views’
This unique tourism attraction located in the Graskop Gorge features incredible views of the Afromontane forests below. They also offer various adventure activities such as a big swing, a zip line, a suspension bridge and guided tours and hikes in the surrounding areas. Also to experience are their food offerings, curio and clothing shops, an art gallery and the community craft centre.
Developers and entrepreneurs, Oupa Pilane, Campbell Scott and James Sheard are the brains behind Graskop Gorge Lift Co.
13. Potluck Boskombuis ‘An unusual eating experience’
The Potluck Boskombuis restaurant is located on a private farm on the Lowveld, Mpumalanga. They serve hearty food cooked on log fires in an open-air kitchen.
It’s been hailed as one of the most unique restaurants of South Africa (it’s built in a rock wall) in a Country Life article. The restaurant which belongs to Daan de Klerk, promises awesome views of the Blyde River Canyon.
14. Old Car Haven Museum ‘For car fanatics’
Car fanatics will love the Old Car Haven, founded by Herman Nel, a car fanatic himself who realised his passion for cars while growing up in the Free State.
Old Car Haven is situated in White River, Mpumalanga and is home to a range of classic, vintage cars in South Africa. The private collection consists of mostly Fords, however there are other models available for visitors’ perusal.
15. Kaya Inkalamo Game Lodge ‘The roar of the lion at your doorstep’
Situated 28km from Zeerust on the way to Mahikeng, lies the peaceful Kaya Inkalamo Game Lodge. The lodge, owned by Suzelle Botha, is a breath of fresh air, offering visitors an oasis of peace and tranquility.
Kaya Inkalamo is home to a Predator Park which has lions, pumas, jaguars and tigers. They offer other activities ideal for families and friends, a camping site, a communal area for bush braaing, swimming pools and a dam for fishing.
16. Camping RetrEats – ‘Camping with a private chef’
Founded by Tshireletso Mokate, Camping RetrEats hosts camping retreats across South Africa, with meals provided by a private chef.
Camping RetrEats ventures hosts retreats in relaxation getaway spots, including Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Limpopo. The organisers also provide adventure activities and camping essentials.
17. Ten Flags Theme Park ‘Ice skating and theme park’
Ten Flags theme park is an amusement park, located in Rustenburg in the North West province. The amusement park was founded by Thapelo Tshepe in September of 2019.
The amusement park boosts 24 fun-filled activities for family and friends to enjoy. Activities include paintball, ziplining, go karting, quad biking, laser tag, ice skating, roller skating and many more.
18. Ezulwini Guest House ‘Best of Durban accommodation’
Ezulwini Guest House is located in the holiday hotspot Ballito, Durban near Zimbali Estate.
It’s owned by Hildah Sibanyoni who won the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 2017 Lilizela Tourism Awards, Kwa-Zulu Natal category.
On the website the accommodation is described as “modern chic with a hint of African flair”.
19. Distillery 031 ‘Durban Distilled’
Distillery 031 is a Durban based, craft spirits distillery founded by Andrew Rall. Among their many offerings is guided distillery tours and tasting, which includes the art of distilling, spirit tasting, a tour of the distillery and complimentary cocktails.
20. Wild5Adventures – ‘The ultimate rush’
Wild5Adventures is situated on the Oribi Gorge hotel property, on the south coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The adventure park is owned by Paul and Josanne Jeffreys.
They offer a range of extreme adventures, one of them being the Wild Swing, which is believed to be the highest swing of its kind in the world.
21. Sundays River Adventures ‘Adrenaline-filled adventure’
Sundays River Adventures is a tour company based in Colchester, Eastern Cape founded by Karl Botha. With Sundays River Adventures you can experience sand boarding and sand sledding on the highest dune in South Africa.
Sundays River Adventures also offers canoeing, river cruises and a day trip to the Addo Elephant Park. They also offer accommodation suited for solo travelers, families and large groups. Their restaurant ‘A Taste of Africa’ offers African inspired cuisine.
22. Blackwater Tubing ‘An original Tsitsikamma experience’
Tubing the Storms River is said to be the only Tsitsikamma activity that provides an experience through the pristine forests, rivers and unique coastline all in one excursion. Blackwater Tubing also offers various accommodation types, a restaurant and entertainment areas such as a sheltered bonfire boma, a large swimming pool and sun deck and large indigenous gardens.
23. Tsitsikamma Woodcutters Journey ‘Nature in its purest form’
Follow the elephant migratory route, passing yellowwoods, and stinkwoods, while learning about the history of the area and its indigenous fauna and flora, like the Knob Wood tree originally used treat toothaches by the Khoisan. During this tour, you can experience the fairy world of a 450-500-year-old, “Human-like Tree”, the unique “Forest Guard” who watch over the forest with human-like faces.
24. Coffee Shack ‘Fun, good value hostel’
For an all round experience of Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, take your backpack and join Coffee Shack Backpackers. Coffee Shack is owned by Dave Malherbe, Andre Malherbe and Dan Cornick and was founded in 2000.
Coffee Shack offers a different activities every day such as cliff jumping, taking a hike to Hole in the Wall, surf lessons and coaching and all round Xhosa cultural experience. They have a restaurant and bar on site, and offer accommodation to suit your needs.
25. Bokpoort Mountain Lodge ‘Unforgettable walks and hikes’
Bokpoort Mountain lodge is located in the Eastern Free State, 7km from Clarens and is surrounded by the Maluti Mountains. The farm is home to an abundance of wildlife species and plants that you, family and friends can explore on any day.
Besides the lodge experience, they offer a number of activities. They also offer nature walks and trails, trout fishing, horse-riding and mountain biking for all the adventurous at heart.
26. Outrageous Adventures ‘Adventure on the water’
Outrageous Adventures is a small tourism company based in the Free State Province owned by Kallie Zwahlen. They offer outrageous adventures as their name suggests, but specialise in river rafting.
You can go river rafting on their two man inflatable rafts or six man inflatable rafts on any day. You can find them for your adventure on the Orange River.
27. Clarens Brewery ‘Preaching the craft-gospel’
Clarens Brewery is one of the first in the country brewery, cidery, distillery and pubs. It was founded by Stephan Meyer, a true beer lover who after a trip to the UK couldn’t wait to start his own brewery.
Clarens Brewery offers beer tasting for visitors and they also have a restaurant where you can sit down for a meal. They have eight ales in their standard range and seasonal ales for you to try.
28. Fundudzi Cultural Camp ‘In the heart of traditional Venda’
The Fundudzi Cultural Camp is set in the heart of traditional Venda territory in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. Guests can stay in a rondavel or partake in activities like hiking and cycling – with the indigenous Sacred Forest and Lake Fundudzi as their views. Other optional activities include a cultural dance in the camp, a cultural dance in the village or a traditional meal in the village.
29. Nthubu Safari Camp ‘Complete outdoor experiences’
Nthubu Safari Camp is based in the Masebe Nature Reserve, along the Klein Mogalakwena River. The camp which is owned by the Nthubu Tourism Primary Co-operative, offers game drives, comfortable safari tents under giant figs and other botanical plant species. Visitors can also explore San Rock Art at a nearby sandstone overhang. All camps have no electricity and a communal kitchen for self-catering.
30. Nahakwe Lodge ‘Modern community-owned tourism enterprise’
Nahakwe Lodge, owned by the local community of the Mamaila Kolobetona Traditional Authority, was built to provide the local community with a hub to build a tourism economy in the area that will stimulate job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Nahakwe Lodge can arrange for guests to participate in old traditions around dance, bead work, sewing and cooking of speciality foods and learn from the community experts. You can also learn to play the mancala-type game.