Africa’s Travel Indaba is once again driving its hidden gems programme to provide selected SMMEs in the tourism sector with a platform to showcase their offerings at this year’s Indaba, which is being held in Durban, South Africa, from May 2 to 4.

The programme provides mentorship, guidance and a platform for SMMEs to develop their businesses and bring a professional product to Indaba.

For Thamendrie Vermaak, of Jotham’s Guesthouse, the support provided by the hidden gems programme has been instrumental in turning her dream into a reality. “They gave me a mentor. She came into my life. She came into my property and had a look at everything and taught me how to set my rates, how to have standard rates, how to have STO rates, and she did professional photography for me as well. So she coached me on how to design and set my home as well. How to put fresh flowers and little things that I wouldn’t have known about. I just wanted a house and I wanted to do the business, but I didn’t know there was much more to business,” explains Vermaak.

Being selected as a hidden gem is not an easy process though, as prospective SMMEs are expected to fulfil a number of requirements to obtain the mentorship. Vermaak says: “You have to go through a study, and you have to do a market presentation of your establishment and show them you’ve worked hard, and that you’re willing to go the extra mile.”

However, there is a feeling that while the exposure that the programme gives is beneficial, it could run for longer, to give SMMEs time to establish their businesses. As Vermaak explains: “I think even the mentorship programme should be extended to five years, as it takes that long for a business to grow. Three years is a good starting point for us, but I think a five-year period would really help a small business to grow.”