The possibilities found in the South African travel sector – from the scenery and hospitality to the biodiversity, and even the infrastructure – are the envy of most countries. However, the local sector still has some big holes to plug in order to perform at its optimum.
The greatest problem with Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) operating in the tourism industry is that they generally don’t have access to market. Consequently, many of them have great properties but don’t know how to get ‘bums in beds’.
As a result, local booking platform, Jurni, was launched three years ago to address this problem in the market – to connect smaller enterprises with a global market and to showcase the enticing travel experiences and products the local industry has to offer to locals and the international travel market.
Jurni is implementing a transformational project of the Department of Tourism, as the main stakeholder, titled National Tourism Visitor Information System (NTVIS).
It was born out of an initiative by Amadeus IT Group to provide seed funding to offset obligations under the National Industrial Participation Programme (NIPP) and to build the industry by focusing on reinvesting in the creation of transformed, sustainable and inclusive global tourism. By implementing these, the NTVIS brings these integrated deliverables – the driving of inclusive economic growth and transformation in South African travel.
The Department of Tourism has supported this project from the beginning by ensuring that Jurni reaches SMMEs in the country through capacity building and also provincial and local government co-ordination. On the other hand, South African Tourism supported the project through participation on the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa workshop in all nine provinces. This support has seen the on-boarded numbers grow each month, something for which Jurni continues to be thankful.
Understanding the challenges the industry faces in reaching the market is critical to solving them rather than just throwing money at the problems and crossing fingers. The mandate was clear when the Jurni platform was initiated.
So, Jurni assembled a team of knowledgeable people in the travel and technology space, with the pedigree to solve the problem of SMMEs in localised areas who are struggling to reach the rapidly growing digital market.
The road so far
To date, the platform has on-boarded over 1 100 accommodation providers and it is living up to its mandate of providing technology that increases the visibility and market access for SMME suppliers of tourism products. Jurni has also engaged these businesses through workshops over the last three years regarding the tourism grading business and the marketing aspect of travel.
So far, we have completed the development of a business tool (Property Management System) for tourism suppliers to self-onboard and manage calendars and inventory.
The system is a business tool that is available 24/7, allowing small-business owners to manage their businesses on-the-move. “We have completed the first delivery of our visitor information portal where accommodation and activities are now bookable.”
Partnerships with role players and suitable companies in the sector, including the likes of Wings Travel Management – in order to help on-boarded accommodation providers secure online bookings more efficiently and timeously – have been leveraged for the benefit of the jurni.travel network of small businesses.
There have also been a series of public discussions through travel and tourism conferences and public lectures to improve the knowledge of the trade for those involved on a smaller scale than larger tourism companies.
Adding value to the marketing efforts of smaller businesses will stimulate healthy competition and eventually improve the overall product of the sector. This is a critical step in evening out the playing field and giving businesses with smaller budgets a fighting chance by helping them to leverage the potential of digital technology.
In today’s world, technology provides access to market. In the past, market access meant you needed an agent to provide a stream of visitors to your establishment. You needed to have someone who would make it possible for you to have the bum on the seat or the bum in the bed. Technology has broken that barrier. That’s been the important part. The role that Jurni plays is by flattening that curve, by saying, ‘You now have direct access to the market’.
Looking into the future, the potential growth of the project and the impact it has on the industry is limitless. While SMMEs in tourism would be justified in celebrating this, it is also great for them to know that they don’t have to fight the marketing battle alone. Help is here!
All SMMEs then have to do is focus on providing a good service and partner with Jurni. The existence of Jurni is another proof of transformation by the Department of Tourism.