South African Tourism and the Tourism Enterprise Partnership (TEP) last Friday announced the names of the nine provincial finalists for the 2013 Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (ETEYA) competition.
ETEYA is a nationwide tourism industry competition that recognises and honours South Africa's best, most promising and most innovative emerging tourism business owners.
The overall ETEYA winner, who will be announced at a national tourism awards ceremony in September, will receive an additional R100 000 cash grant to help grow their business.
They will also get access to mentoring, invaluable marketing assistance and business direction from leading industry experts.
The regional finalists are Bonang Conference Centre (North West); Citi Hopper (Western Cape); Dan's Country Lodge and Events Centre (Eastern Cape); Jo's Guest House and Hantamkraal Restaurant (Northern Cape); Kuhle Travel and Tours (KwaZulu-Natal); Makgabeng Farm Lodge (Limpopo); Ntwanano Tours & Travel (Mpumalanga); Rethabise Premium Guest Lodge (Free State) and Ubuhle Be Narha Tours (Gauteng). They were chosen from 27 provincial finalists (three per province) announced last month.
The entrepreneurs represent various tourism businesses who proved to the panel of judges that they significantly contributed to economic empowerment, offer a product or service which is innovative, and have a sound business plan to ensure continued growth and opportunity for expansion.
"When one considers the valuable contribution tourism makes to communities and the economy, you realise that ETEYA is not just another competition.
"It is a programme and platform meant to unearth and showcase the products and services we have and the emerging tourism entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to deliver excellence, authenticity and diversity to our visitors," said Thulani Nzima, chief executive of SA Tourism.
"We are greatly impressed by the quality of this year's applications and would like to congratulate the nine regional finalists. Their businesses embody the vision and mission of what ETEYA entails and assists us with the goal of greater transformation of the tourism industry. The selection process was tough, as the standard of all regional finalists was very impressive and of a very high quality," he said.
Ahead of the announcement of the finalists, TEP also released the findings of two studies. The results showed that small, medium and mid-sized enterprises perform considerably better when they are supported and mentored by TEP.
The studies into tourism firms that employ between 10 and 49 people, found that more than half of the more established TEP-supported firms had increased their turnover, as opposed to their non-supported counterparts.
"As an organisation, our focus is on analysing individual business needs and offering the owners services and interventions we believe will help them achieve their business objectives.
"These range from marketing support to customised training, funding and mentoring. This is why TEP-supported businesses tend to fare better than non-supported businesses and this is evident in the job creation statistics," said Dr Salifou Siddo, chief executive of TEP.
As part of the ETEYA programme, the nine finalists will each be assigned a mentor to work with them to implement their business plans as presented at the SME workshop that was held last week at the 2013 Tourism Indaba in Durban.
Each finalist will also be awarded a R10 000 grant for the development of the business plan they worked on earlier in the competition. The final business plan will include all of the elements covered during the months with their mentor and the feasibility of implementing the plan in an actual business environment.
Bloggers change the face of destination marketing
The South African Tourism Indaba hosted a historic travel bloggers conference attended by some of the world's most influential international and local travel bloggers.
At the Indaba Travel Bloggers #MeetSouthAfrica event, the bloggers unpacked the changing face of destination marketing and the importance of personalised, user-generated content, connect and social media engagement and its impact on the tourism trade.
There was a phenomenal response to the Bloggers conference, which took place at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium on Friday May 10. The event was oversubscribed and received 300 confirmations in just 48 hours.
At least 15 international bloggers attended the conference. Among the bloggers represented were @Traveldudes, @VelvetEscape and @Landlopers, from the influential iAmbassadors network of leading travel bloggers from around the world.
Included within the total number of international bloggers was a contingent of bloggers from South Africa's watchlist markets, including Spain, Argentina and Switzerland.
On the first weekend of their #MeetSouthAfrica blogger tour, the bloggers uploaded hundreds of tweets, images, blogs and videos, capturing in real time the wide diversity of tourism experiences and the warm locals that they came across on their South African tour.
These bloggers' stories are set to considerably increase awareness of South Africa and encourage potential travellers to consider South Africa as their next holiday destination.
"The bloggers are covering fashion, lifestyle, travel and food and [toured] the country on four different itineraries crafted to expose them to a broad spectrum of activities, experiences, attractions and accommodation that South Africa has to offer," said William Price, global manager of e-marketing at South African Tourism.
The itineraries cover Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route; Cape Town to Durban via the West Coast; Johannesburg to Durban via the Free State and Johannesburg to Durban via Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag is already actively in use on Twitter, with bloggers and travel trade joining in the conversation during last week's tour.
South African Tourism www.southafrica.net The full Tourism Enterprise Partnership research findings are available at www.tep.co.za
Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team.