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Tour Operator App to Boost Rural Tourism

An innovative online product aims to assist tour operators in sourcing new, emerging and community-based tourism businesses and experiences for their tours and itineraries, writes Claire Allison.

Local non-profit organisation Open Africa in partnership with Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) are working together on innovative project to develop an online product that will assist tour operators with the process of sourcing new, emerging and community-based tourism businesses and experiences for their tours and itineraries.

The project aims to provide local tour operators with a wider range and better product knowledge of the emerging and community-based tourism segment which is hoped will increase businesses between emerging and community-based enterprises and established tour operators.

The partnership comes after Open Africa, together with the Responsible & Inclusive Business Hub (RIBH) from GIZ, hosted a networking session in August 2015 with selected tour operators to explore the challenges faced by including community-based tourism enterprises in their itineraries and to see how those challenges could be overcome. The workshop provided valuable insight into the business practices of tour operators and a number of innovative ideas were discussed.

Open Africa will also develop a toolkit with practical resources to assist tourism enterprises to deliver a high-quality hospitality experience. This will be tailored to the type of business as these range from attractions to accommodation, activities and tour guides.

The tool will also allow tour operators to assess, score and provide feedback to attractions, accommodation and tour guides that participate in the programme. The product will be launched in May 2016 at the annual Tourism Indaba in Durban, where tour operators will be given a live illustration of the product features.

It is hoped that the product will increase understanding on the part of emerging and community-based tourism enterprises of the needs and requirements of tour operators and how they can improve their businesses to meet these standards consistently. In return, tour operators will have more trust in the ability of these establishments and will be more likely to include them on future itineraries.

Open Africa Managing Director, Francois Viljoen said, “the project is exciting since it provides both tour operators and community-based enterprises practical tools to build stronger linkages and will ultimately improve the quality of experiences provided in the industry. By exposing tour operators to new products and helping to bridge the gap and create market access for the emerging entrepreneurs, rural economies in South Africa can be sustained and expect growth through job creation, new income streams and increased awareness of tourism offerings.

Open Africa is a social enterprise that helps rural entrepreneurs feel confident to work together to revitalise their communities through tourism. It opens people’s eyes to the untapped potential of areas outside of the city, and helps them overcome the obstacles to growth. Open Africa has worked with communities to establish 64 branded tourism routes throughout 6 countries in Southern Africa over the past 20 years.

About the author: Claire Allison is the marketing manager of Open Africa. www.openafrica.org