Enabling Market Access for emerging entrepreneurs

Alushca Ritchie, CEO of the Cape Tourist Guides Association and Chairwoman of the Federation of South African Tourist Guide Associations (FSATGA) has expressed concern that under the provisions of the new Tourism Bill in South Africa, tourist guides and their employers could face hefty fines for operating without being registered.

Regulation can improve quality and ensure minimum standards, that is a good thing. However, regulation can also be used to protect the interests of those who are already established in the industry and enable them to protect their entrenched interests against those of new emerging entrepreneurs who can be disadvantaged or excluded by regulation. The challenge is in the detail. Too often around the world, regulation and certification is used to protect the interests of those established in the industry and exclude, or disadvantage, emerging small entrepreneurs.

The challenge for legislators and regulators is to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between regulations designed to ensure minimum standards to protect the reputation of a country’s industry and enabling new entrepreneurs and enterprises to emerge. It is often those new small sole traders, and micro-businesses, which develop the experiential products which are of increasing importance in international and domestic tourism.

The popularity of the township tours offered in South Africa is evidence of how important innovation is in the sector and that tourists increasingly seek authentic experiences. There needs to be opportunity and space for new forms of tourism to emerge. The risk is that regulations are used by vested interests to protect established businesses, and their market share, to the disadvantage of new entrants and the nation, as the industry fails to innovate and to offer the new more authentic people-to- people experiences that significant sections of the market now seek. It is also often the efforts of the emerging entrepreneurs, initially not licensed, who spread the benefits of tourism beyond the established honeypots. It was not the established operators who developed township tourism now such an important part of the industry.

Consider the newly emerging organisations which won the global Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award over the last two years: i 2012 Reality Tours and Travel won for their educational Dharavi Slum Tours, for demonstrating  that it’s possible for tourists to tour a slum in India in a responsible way and in 2011 Sock Mob Events/Unseen Tours  for their tours led by homeless people offering a very different perspective on London.

The Gambia Tourism Board Act of 2011 contained new licensing regulations for all those enterprises and individuals engaged in the business of tourism. The new Regulations issued under the Act recognised that there needed to be an opportunity for licensed guides to grow their businesses into Ground Tour Operations.

Under the old regulations a Ground Tour Operator needed to own at least nine vehicles. This is still the requirement for a Class A licence. The new regulations for the first time contain provisions for a Class B licence, which requires ownership of three vehicles of which at least one must be a mini-van with a minimum seating capacity of 14 and a Land rover.

This has removed a significant barrier to access in the industry, enabling small entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and to compete with the established Class A operators. Since the new regulations came into force several new ground operators have been licensed including:

Bushwacker Tours www.bushwhackertours.com  Founded by Alieu Bayo with 14 years’ experience as licensed tour guide – his company is highly recommended on Trip Advisor

Jagary-Jagary Jo B&B Safaris: a local man with a 4 wheel driven UMM and a Peugeot 306 offering trips to trips to Basse, Coconut Island and numerous other local safaris.

 Arch Tours www.arch-tours.com Abdul Ramon Conteh gained a ground tour operator  license after ten years’ experience as a licensed guide. Arch Tours is very highly recommended on Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g297575-d1648132-Reviews-Arch_tours-Kololi_Banjul_Division.html

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Harold Goodwin