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Enhancing innovation in tourism sector

A pool of young innovators and entrepreneurs who will enhance innovation that will stimulate growth in the tourism sector with the Tourism Deputy Ministe, Fish Mahlalela. Picture Lesego Makgatho

A pool of young innovators and entrepreneurs who will enhance innovation that will stimulate growth in the tourism sector with the Tourism Deputy Ministe, Fish Mahlalela. Picture Lesego Makgatho

Published Jun 27, 2022

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Johannesburg - A newly-developed programme looks to bring a spark of hope to many young people.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, on Thursday, launched the Tourism Technology Grassroots Innovation Incubator Programme (TTGIIP) at the Hilton Hotel, in Sandton, Johannesburg.

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The programme will involve a cohort of young innovators who will spearhead ideas to stimulate the growth of the tourism sector through technological advancements.

A total of 20 incumbents between the ages of 18 and 35 will be supported to develop technologies that will facilitate the introduction of new concepts to revive, sustain and create jobs in the sector.

Talita Giqo, 29, an innovator from Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, is part of the programme.

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“I started a company, EmboDGtech. We are developing an app that will help travellers check-in online and order services online. It will also provide automated room access.

“We are cutting contact between business and man, and we are eliminating the use of paperwork and the process of checking in, manually. The app will be developed in such a way that you will be able to access your room using the app, by QR code,” said Giqo.

The unemployed IT graduate of Walter Sisulu University said she was inspired by the idea when, while conducting her research, she noticed that there were bottleneck aspects related to the administrative hassle of guests checking into hotels, and on the occasion of her travels accross provinces within the country.

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She is in partnership with her former lecturers from alma mater and a software developer.

Mthokozisi Ntshingila, from Durban, in partnership with Prashant Maharaj, is working on a mobile application called ShazaCin Accessible Media which serves as a personal narrator, creating an imaginative visual experience of tourist attractions for blind persons.

“We make visual content accessible to the blind persons. Not only do we make that audio-descriptive content, but we’ve also developed an app in order to deliver it because that’s one of the gaps that we saw here in South Africa,” said Ntshingila.

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He said that they came up with this 360-degree solution.

“We are hoping to make tourism in South Africa inclusive to blind persons. The company was officially established in 2020. Blindness is misunderstood in a lot of ways. It makes up the largest chunk of the disabled population in the world, yet it is the least catered for. The more we don’t cater for them, the more we leave them behind in our increasingly visual world.”

The applicants were afforded an opportunity to bid to have their innovative tourism tech-solution financed. The successful bidders will participate in a two-year development programme that includes idea finalisation, prototype development, a commercialisation plan, venture capital and other investment financing, market testing and eventual graduation.

The TTGIIP is a collaborative initiative between the Department of Tourism, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entity, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

Implemented through TIA, the TTGIIP will mentor entrepreneurs and enterprises, underpinned by technology and innovation, to fully advance the design and business viability of their prototypes, with a view of introducing concepts that will drive investment and stimulate new opportunities to enhance services and experiences in tourism.

“As we celebrate youth month under the theme ‘Promoting sustainable livelihoods and resilience of young people for a better tomorrow,’ we envisage the TTGIIP inspiring and uplifting the youth to pursue their business ideas and innovations to unlock sustainable opportunities in tourism,” said Mahlalela.

He said the aim of this programme is to support a pipeline of young tourism tech entrepreneurs who can develop disruptive technologies for the industry, as well as facilitate the introduction of new concepts that will help sustain more job-creation.

“The TTGIIP looks to help participants inspire innovation amongst enterprises in the travel and hospitality sector; and involve the youth and women in tourism business operations.

“Most importantly it looks to create jobs and skills development. As a government, we believe tech-based innovation can greatly stimulate new services and job opportunities.

“We have to think differently as we adapt to a new set of norms. We have to become agile in our thinking and be creative in reimagining the new normal.”

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