Tourism entrepreneur is hoping for better days
Bongani Khumalo grew up seeing tourists visiting popular heritage sites near his home in Orlando West, Johannesburg.
He saw the positive impact tourism had in his community and in 2013, he started his own tourism company called Flexi Tours and Logistics.
After completing his studies, he struggled to find employment and while he was looking for a job, he noticed that many tourists were coming to Soweto every day.
“Seeing tourists visiting Vilakazi Street and the homes of late struggle veterans Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu inspired me to start a tour company” says Bongani.
His company, Flexi Tours and Logistics is a one stop shop for planning weekend getaways, holidays and educational tours, social clubs, and school tours. Starting a tour company came naturally to him because he has an entrepreneurial spirit, and he enjoys showcasing the beauty of South Africa to tourists.
“My Soweto tour packages are popular and unique because it’s where I grew up and I know the area very well,” says Bongani.
Even though starting a business came naturally to him, keeping it afloat is a challenge he is trying to overcome. “COVID19 lockdown restrictions negatively affected my business because people were not travelling as much as they used to,” says Bongani.
In 2020, there were months when his business was forced to shut down because the tourism sector was closed, and he could not operate.
Bongani is still trying to recover from the financial loss caused by lockdown restrictions, and he is hopeful that as more people get vaccinated, lockdown restrictions will be lifted, and he will be able to fully operate again.
Before COVID19, Bongani’s business was booming, and he was even a finalist in the Township Entrepreneur Awards in 2016. “My company was doing very well, my tours were regularly fully booked, and I was creating employment in my community” says Bongani.
His company does not only specialize for tours in Soweto, but it also plans tours across the country and international trips. To diversify income streams, Bongani supplies personalized souvenirs for corporate and school tours.
There are loads of tour operators in Soweto and it’s a very competitive space to be in. Finding innovative ways to make his business unique helps him attract clients.
“My skip the line service for tourists that don’t like waiting in queues has brought me loads of new clients,” says Bongani. Educational tours to help learners with their curriculum as well as family friendly tour packages are also some of his unique service offerings.
The tourism industry is still trying to recover from loss of revenue caused by lockdown restrictions and civil unrest.
“When there are riots, protests and looting, small tour operators like me lose business because tourists are not coming into the country when there is unrest,” says Bongani.
He is hopeful that his business will survive all the challenges so he can go back to planning tours and showcasing South Africa’s beauty of South Africa to tourists.