Across the globe an increasing number of tourists are visiting townships in search of unique and authentic experiences. Township tourism can play a vital role in highlighting cultural and heritage attractions outside of traditional tourist areas, while creating opportunities for small businesses and employment.
Talk of the town
May and November were inspired to launch DiscoverIkasi when they struggled to find accurate, up-to-date information on attractions, accommodation, nightlife and dining options in Cape Town’s townships.
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“We decided to create a platform to showcase our townships and make it easy for people to find these great places,” says November. “We have come up with a novel way of getting our clients off the well-worn tourist trail and into the heart of townships, allowing them to witness life as it is lived by the vast majority of South Africans. In these lesser-travelled areas there is a cultural richness guaranteed to rival that of the big cities.”
DiscoverIkasi was established in 2016 and the business partners faced several challenges in getting it off the ground. They struggled to get buy in from businesses in the townships due to a lack of understanding about digital marketing, and it was hard to establish credibility among tourists.
They worked tirelessly to promote their service offering, which includes online digital marketing services, community tours, accommodation bookings and business listings.
“The aim is to market townships not only to international guests but regular South Africans. We want to drive traffic into the townships, which will help businesses and the township economy grow. Furthermore, we hope to promote a positive narrative around townships and encourage the exchange of ideas,” says May.
In March 2017, the company was selected out of over 200 businesses to take part in the Telkom Future Makers programme.
“It was during this time that we managed to roll out the business on a larger scale and we managed to get 51 businesses listed on the platform,” says November. “We also began receiving interest from businesses outside of Cape Town and we won the first place prize for Best Township Innovation in Tech at the Silicon Cape Awards in 2017.”
The business partners have big plans for 2018. They envision growing the number of businesses listed to 150 by June, joining national tourism bodies and forming strategic partnerships with both the private and public sector. They also plan to expand across the country and produce a magazine and TV show that showcases township attractions.
What advice do they have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, solve a customer need or problem. Never underestimate yourself based on where you come from, just have the courage to start working towards your dream.”