Sonto Mbonambi, President of STEA said “our organisation is not only a voice for the SMMEs, but it also prioritises high impact issues that are important to our collective membership. Not only do we identify the industry’s biggest opportunities and challenges, but we also create initiatives that will drive positive economic growth for our members as well as advocate for things that will advance and elevate our members within the tourism sector.”
“Some of STEA’s key-objectives are to implement evidence-based programs to help our members to develop tourism products and services to accelerate sustainable growth. We also facilitate and implement innovative approaches to assist ourselves in identifying and improving our members’ position in a rapidly changing global market,” she added.
“During the workshop, we will explore digitilisation of SMMEs in the tourism supply chain. The Tourism sector is among the those where a gap in the digital labour market has been identified. We have therefore engaged with TUT to explore the need for digitalisation and to see how active we are within the digitalisation space as SMMEs.”
“This collaboration is important to STEA, since we understand that with digitalisation comes unprecedented opportunities for tourism SMMEs to access new markets, develop new products and services and adopt new models and processes; while upgrading their positions in the global tourism value chain,” said Sonto.
Dr Portia Sifolo, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Tourism Management said the presence of all at the function symbolises the University’s moral purpose, which is to be a people’s university that makes knowledge work. “We do that through transforming our societies as well as having meaningful and impactful engagements with various stakeholders,” she said.
“This workshop forms part of a bigger project funded by the National Research Foundation. Today’s event is registered under the Centre for Sustainable Tourism. The first event was held in KwaZulu-Natal, led by the Thinking Pair Group. Embracing digitalisation sometimes feels like navigating a maze, but I am hopeful that we will navigate this maze together by participating and engaging in transformative, transdisciplinary research as we explore digitalisation. Research literature indicates that we need to have digital strategies in our own companies to be relevant in the market,” she said.
Keynote speaker, Sina Legong, Partner Programme Lead at Mlab, said the workshop signifies the collective recognition of the key role that the digital economy plays in shaping the future of tourism in Africa. “The digital economy has ushered a vast array of opportunities that hold immense potential for businesses to leverage data analyses using artificial intelligence,” she said.
“Even though the digital economy comes with many opportunities, it also creates challenges such as the privacy of customers that needs to be protected; cyber security attacks, that we have experienced even in South Africa, especially in banks; and the digital divide in the country,” she added.
“Thus, it is our duty as businesses to ensure that as we embrace digitalisation, while we also safeguard the integrity of the industry and protect the privacy of our clients. We have the collective power to shape the future of the tourism business. But as responsible stewards, let us embrace this digitalisation with the commitment to ethics, inclusivity and sustainability,” she concluded.
During the panel discussion session, facilitated by Dr Sifolo, panelists talked about the importance of continuous learning and upskilling; the need to form strong client relationships and the need to embrace data, as well as the importance of making business decisions based on data analyses and the importance of social media. They further stressed the importance of forming partnerships and having good governance structures in place.
Panel members were Dr Patrick Ebewo (TUT Entrepreneurship Department); Sthandiwe Mkhize (Thinking Pair Group); Lizanne du Plessis (Eco-Africa Digital/Innovation Hub); Hulisani Thabela (City of Tshwane); and Melanie Leloup (South African Tourism).