Local South African tourism SMME network, SEEZA, has co-founded the World Travel Tech Forum (WTTF) with tourism businesses around the world to connect global tech start-ups with tourism small, medium and micro enterprises. (SMMEs).
The other founding businesses are Jerusalem Entrepreneur Tourism Hub in Israel, Gremi d'Hotels de Barcelona in Spain, and Startup Lisboa in Portugal.
The WTTF – with hubs in Barcelona, Dubai, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Lisbon and Paris – works with local partners such as SEEZA to ensure smaller tourism businesses have access to technology, which helps them gain traction in key international source markets.
“There is growing interest in the forum from many other quarters around the world,” said founder of SEEZA and head of the Johannesburg WTTF hub, Septi Bukula, adding that hubs in London, Edinburgh and Fortaleza, Brazil were in the pipeline.
He told Travel News that, working with SMMEs in South Africa, he had noticed that their greatest disadvantage was a lack of digital connection via appropriate technological tools. “Having worked on facilitating international market access for tourism SMMEs since 2017, SEEZA observed that many SMMEs still largely conducted business offline.” He said this posed major challenges to their engaging internationally, and resulted in several missed business opportunities.
The forum was therefore founded to offer a platform that connected SMMEs to technology products that could benefit their businesses. “The forum’s co-founders are all entities who have an interest in tourism, the development of small businesses and technology, and created the forum to be an interface for these areas,” said Septi.
He said the forum's founders had all identified technology as playing a pivotal role in tourism, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, where contactless and digital customer experiences had become the norm due to concerns about health and safety. He described the forum as not only a service that would benefit the SMMEs but also as an entrepreneurial opportunity for the technology industry, who would gain access to new markets and potential buyers.
The forum has hosted two virtual showcases for technology products from around the world, following which some technologies had entered the South African market facilitated by the WTTF and SEEZA. One such technology is a destination information tool developed in Spain that can offer South African SMMEs the chance to update potential clients on any information in real-time.
He said he hoped technologies entering the South African market through the forum would make their tools and systems available to SMMEs. “That is what we ultimately want to foster. We want SMMEs and tech start-ups to form joint ventures from which they both benefit.”