Tourism is a curious industry: Business operators in the sector, even the ones with actual products, are selling experiences. Sometimes, the experience is the product. This is both a differentiator from other industries and a marketing opportunity.
As Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, once said, “In the factory, we make cosmetics, in the store, we sell hope.” In tourism, we don’t sell getting from A to Z and the things you see in between, we promote life-changing and enhancing experiences.
Entrepreneurs selling objects have a harder time than those selling experiences, and, with the growing audience available, opportunity is knocking for local entrepreneurs to entice visitors with the expectation of world-class, one-of-a-kind experiences.
This is an industry of reinvention, we can’t be a one-trick pony that never offers surprises or adds value to what we have, there must always be room for more, with creative additions on offer to existing products.
What does the market want?
In tourism, the common narrative from visitors could be that while they enjoyed a destination, they felt that it could have been even better if… The “if” is where the opportunity lies. If that “if” is repeated often enough and there’s a creative solution for plugging the gap, a business plan is born.
An example of this would be Ebrahim Osman, who engaged with visitors to international hotels and discovered that people on business trips wanted to play a round of golf, without the hassle of lugging equipment around the globe. As a golfing enthusiast, Ebrahim saw the gap. He now runs a successful golf and touring company, Ozzies Golf Guide, collecting visitors from hotels, kitting them out and providing them with tee-off times at a range of courses. The visitors want the experience of golfing in Cape Town, and he provides it.
South Africa is an ideal environment in which to sell experiences as the country is rich with them: Nature, adventure, food and wine, culture and heritage. The innovative entrepreneur can take any one (or a combination) of those and develop a business strategy.
There’s the Dream Big environment that culminates in a place like the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Africa) development and then something smaller, like the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, that takes you right into the homes of artists in the townships. The concept can be easy to execute without the risk of excessive capital investment.
The Maboneng offering is fantastic in that it involves partnerships with many stakeholders who all benefit, being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean flying solo. Partnerships can provide support, guidance, mentoring and mutual benefits, as well as reducing risk.
Both the Maboneng Township Arts Experience and Ozzies Golf Guide were beneficiaries of the Cape Town Tourism Board Development fund, which provides funding, mentoring and other non-financial support to carefully-selected, historically disadvantaged SMMEs in tourism.
They have since grown to employ more staff and both highlight the benefits of funding and grants, a consideration entrepreneurs should take if needing additional support. This helps to address the “if” factor by reducing the risks found in stepping out of comfort zones to tackle opportunities.
- What’s missing?
- What would I like to have here?
- What experiences would make that space more memorable and exciting?
What does the visitor leave with? Very often, just a small souvenir or two, a few photos and memories they’ll cherish forever, the latter provided by the experiences delivered by entrepreneurs and tourism professionals.