It’s no secret that tourism SMMEs in South Africa are faced with all sorts of obstacles on their business journey.

Sometimes it’s a lack of strategic resources or adequate funding. Other times it’s the red tape associated with labour laws. Often, it’s a state of feeling completely overwhelmed, holding back because of fear, or feeling unsure and indecisive about how to accomplish your goals.

It’s easy to reach burnout, especially at the end of a tough year — yes 2019, we’re looking at you — but before you throw your hands up in defeat, here are some tips for South Africa’s SMMEs to stay on track in 2020.

  1. Become an active member of an association

French author André Maurois once wrote, “Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold.” Many small business owners would agree, and I would advise tourism SMMEs to join industry associations, amongst others, like NAA-SA, SATSA, Fedhasa, Savrala and those associated with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

Most SMMEs don’t have access to training or resources that can help them elevate their businesses, and these national bodies can really help them get a foot in the door. They offer a platform to connect with other businesses and, as an active member, you’ll gain useful insights into the global, regional and local tourism sector.

  1. List your business on booking platforms

Secondly, I would encourage small, medium and micro enterprises to make sure they’re being seen by their audience. For 2020, it’s imperative to increase your brand visibility, making sure it’s cleverly targeted, in places and on platforms where your target audience will see you.

The pilot of Jurni’s booking tool went live in December 2019. Small businesses mustn’t lose sight of these types of platforms, which will put them directly in front of customers during the buying stage of their travel planning.

Unlike your business’s social media pages, once you’ve listed your business on a booking platform, you can manage your inventory and prices easily and you won’t need to create fresh content every day to stay top of mind.

  1. Keep up to date with your industry

Aside from your chosen association’s newsletters, I recommend keeping up to date with anything affecting the local, regional and global tourism industry through tourism trade publications.

The recent Eskom load shedding is just one example of how important this is. SMMEs need to set up Google Alerts and make a daily habit of reading up on the latest news reports and keep up to date on current events.

2020 also looks set to be an exciting year with all sorts of travel trends and innovative technology coming our way – and if you’re not up to speed with what’s going on, you double the risk of getting caught out and being left behind.

  1. Start to embrace technology

As a long-term tip that reaches beyond 2020, I would like to remind SMMEs to be conscious of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Don’t let the phrase ‘4IR’ scare you. We are living in an exciting and dynamic environment. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is categorised by disruptive technologies that are predicted to alter the way we live, work, and even relate to one another.

I mention this because it’s important for business owners to slowly start embracing new technology. It’s not enough to be late adopters and, by starting to implement new systems now, SMMEs can automate elements of their business and manage their data in an efficient and effective manner, which can save a lot of time.

The storing of data was one of the driving forces behind Jurni. We realised that we needed a centralised tourism data hub to deliver credible data to facilitate decision-making for tourism industry players across the value chain.

  1. Think about your role in the bigger picture

SMMEs are set to be the hope of the ailing South African economy and, according to The National Development Plan, the sector is predicted to contribute 60-80% to the GDP increase by 2030.

It’s a big ask and responsibility, especially considering the number of challenges that SMMEs face. But going into 2020, it is important for smaller businesses and start-ups to remember that what you offer does matter, not just to the travellers and tourists you seek to serve, but also to the country as a whole.

It takes a certain amount of persistence and courage to succeed as a small fish in a big sea, but it is indeed possible to thrive in the ever-changing tourism industry.