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Getting your tourism business off the ground

Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs

PropertyAgree.jpgEven when other industries are taking a knock, the Tourism sector is still able to thrive, since business and leisure travel continues in good and bad. This does not mean that it's an easy option for someone looking to enter the market, as there are many things you have to take into account before you kick start the process.

Our wealth of natural wonders, wildlife, good weather and the rand/dollar/euro exchange rate makes South Africa a favourite destination for foreign travellers. More and more international sporting events and conferences taking place in the country are also a major draw-card.

It's for these reasons that many entrepreneurs enter the industry, but you should not assume that your business will be an automatic success without doing the necessary leg-work.

What it takes

If you're a creative person who doesn't mind working long hours and enjoys meeting people, you're already well-suited to a business in tourism. It's all about service and offering visitors an experience that will motivate them to come back.

There are many types of businesses you could look at, such as hotels, B&Bs, travel agencies, sight-seeing tours, shuttle services, adventure tours and so on. From this list you can see why creativity and business savvy go hand in hand in these types of businesses.

A business like any other

Whether you know exactly what kind of business you want to start or you're still deciding, it's important to realise that the process needed to start a tourism business is no different to any other. The big question - is your business viable and likely to succeed? To determine this, you have to:

Identify the type of business you want to start: Your own strengths and need in your area may help you decide which direction to follow.  

Research your business and learn about its unique challenges: Find out about all aspects of the tourism product and sector you are interested in.

  • Look carefully at the market and at your competition
  • Identify potential markets and customers, the demand and pricing for the product
  • List the requirements for leases, licences, insurance, staffing and other factors; everything you need to have in place to operate your business
  • Identify the marketing activities you need to participate in to be successful in your target markets. Include the costs and timing of these activities
  • Take an approach that sets you apart from your competitors

Analyse the markets and the opportunities: Take what you've learned from your research and evaluate whether or not you have a viable business idea. Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • How will I operate in the off-season?
  • Will I need to employ staff? How many? Full time or part time? What skills will they need?
  • Where are my best potential markets and how will I reach them?
  • How should I develop my skills as a manager?
  • And most importantly - Can I afford to properly market to my target audience?

Answering these questions will help you develop a rough budget. Review your expenses and projected revenues to ensure that your business can be profitable in the long term.

Develop your business plan: the Sanlam Business Plan e-book is a good place to start. A good business plan is essential to making informed business decisions and potential financiers will want to review your business plan before considering you for financing.

Secure financing: visit at our Finding Financing category in the Business Planning section for ideas.

Setting up your operation: This will include anything from registering your business, actual operational set-up, hiring staff and so on. It will take the most time and is one of the most important contributors to your future success. So plan ahead and get good advice if you need to.

Market and promoting your business: This part of doing business is one of the most neglected. In the tourism industry, it's not enough to depend on people who happen to drive by or look you up in the Yellow Pages. Once again, your creativity will come into play when working out a marketing plan.

If you've been through this process and still think the Tourism industry is right for you, then you know exactly where to start making your dream a reality.

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  • Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Dan Bevin Nkili, Victoria West, South Africa  |  May 28, 2010
Information provided is very informative and useful.