How Maseru Madlala is trying to get more black people to travel domestically

Maseru Madlala, founder of a specialised travel agency, is striving to promote tourism in African communities

Much has been said about the role tourism could play in increasing SA’s economic growth and employment, and attracting foreign investment. According to the latest Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report, international tourism contributed 2% to the country’s economy in 2015. However, domestic tourism has declined.

Madlala – who started her company Azibuyemasisweni Tourism in 2012 – believes the reason for this is the lack of awareness in black communities of SA’s natural, cultural, historical and environmental drawcards.

“My aim is to create a platform for black South Africans to learn more about opportunities in the tourism industry,” she explains. “I focus on culture and heritage tourism because when people visit SA, they want authentic experiences with locals in their communities. This presents many opportunities for people to establish businesses that showcase their particular culture and lifestyle.”

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She adds that many people in remote parts of KZN, for example, associate tourism with hospitality or a specific event, but there’s much more to it.

“That’s why I’m spearheading information programmes that detail how important tourism is not only for our country’s GDP, but for the development of local communities. Many South Africans don’t visit culturally significant places, so it’s imperative that we promote domestic tourism.”

Madlala obtained a BTech in travel and tourism at the UK’s University of Manchester before working at Swissport as a flight dispatcher. After a stint at the Gauteng Department of Culture & Recreation, she used her personal savings to open her company.

I want to empower black South Africans with the skills to start their own businesses that promote the uniqueness of Africa as a destination

“Launching a start-up requires a great deal of vision and determination. Working on a limited budget was a challenge, but I overcame it by staying positive and adapting my business model almost every year,” she says.

With sheer determination and her innate business savvy, Madlala increased her revenue from R500 000 in the first year to over R1 million in 2015/16. She’s currently focusing on offering accredited training courses and hosting workshops about what tourism really entails and how to spot gaps in that market. She’s also working with the Department of Tourism to help unemployed graduates find jobs in the sector.

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“SA’s diversity and beauty are unrivalled,” says Madlala. “My goal is not only to help people find permanent employment in this industry, but – more importantly – to empower them with the skills to start their own businesses that promote the uniqueness of Africa as a destination and create jobs, in turn, for future generations.

“I want to encourage young people never to give up. While the job market may be tough, there are still opportunities for success. The key is not relying on anybody else to make your vision a reality, but to persevere and do it yourself.”

This article was first published in the July 2017 issue of DESTINY.