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The struggles of a local travel startup

Loyiso Mfuku is the founder of Khayelitsha Travel and Tours, a travel agency that provides international tourists with an authentic South African experience. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has been brought to a standstill leaving this entrepreneur and many others with very limited options.
Loyiso Mfuku, founder of Khayelitsha Travel and Tours
Loyiso Mfuku, founder of Khayelitsha Travel and Tours
Mfuku, a graduate of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, during the nationwide lockdown partnered with Ke Nako, a Luxembourg based NGO that promotes education in South Africa, to develop and launch an urban farming garden in Khayelitsha to help support his family - since his travel agency was unable to operate.

International travel might still be a way off for South African tourism, but at least there's a glimmer of hope as local leisure travel restrictions slowly ease.

Loyiso Mfuku shares with us the challenges of local travel startups face in a time of Covid-19.

BizcommunityCan you tell us how Khayelitsha Travel and Tours came about?

In 2004, I enrolled for a Diploma in Tourism Management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology but due to financial challenges I was only able to complete the two years of the diploma. It was during this period that I landed a job at African Ample Assistance as a tour consultant. While at AAA I continued to learn about the hospitality and tourism industry through on job training. I leveraged the resources afforded to me by my employer to develop the concept of Khayelitsha Travel and Tours and in 2006 Khayelitsha Travel and Tours was born.

BizcommunityWhat are the services you offer?

The core of the business was to create tailored holiday itineraries which included car rental, holiday bookings, flight tickets, transport services and sightseeing with experienced guides conducting. Some of our offerings included township tours; cultural tours; jubilee tours; adventure tours, balloon trips and safari tours.

BizcommunityCovid-19 and the national lockdown has impacted many businesses. What impact did it have on Khayelitsha Travel and Tours?

My business was negatively affected by coronavirus crisis by its very nature being tourism. We weren't able to trade since March 2020. Sadly, some of our fixed costs remain intact whilst nobody was able to make use of our services, therefore we were not generating any income.

Fortunately I received a some small amount of funds from Ke Nako where I helped with some administrative tasks. My fiancée has a full-time job as nurse, so she could provide for the family.

BizcommunityHow did you prepare for the lockdown?

Lockdown has been one of those unforeseen circumstance. Nobody could utilise our services due to lockdown, so we had to adapt and find something else to do. That's when we landed on the urban farming project.

BizcommunityWhat's the biggest challenge you are facing during this pandemic?

Our operations came to a standstill. The entire industry is bleeding and continues to suffer. Currently, our biggest revenue comes from car a rental service which is provided by Bidvest Car Rental. Bidvest is now facing possible closure due to lockdown and clamping down of several branches.

We now need to look for new partners in order to retain our place as there are no certainties on the opening of international travel. Most car rental are allowed to operate under level 3, however currently there has been a renovation on site that is taking longer than expected adding to the already stressful situation, the city of Cape Town had requested tenants to further put their operations on hold until further notice.

BizcommunityWith South Africa on Lockdown Level 3, if you are able to operate, what steps are you taking to continue operating?

I have secured a 7-seater vehicle through a grant fund from SAB Foundation. The vehicle was meant to help conduct airport to city centre transfers but I am planning to use it as staff transport until the tourism industry open for trading.

BizcommunityWhat measures have you put in place for your employees?

We have currently laid them off. With what we had our provision only lasted for three month and we were unable to extend beyond. We also applied late for TERS and recently our bookkeeper has initiated a process of following up.

BizcommunityAre you communicating with your customers? If so, how?

Since the start of lockdown we had been in touch with our customers via phone, WhatsApp and emails. We have also been in touch with industry players via Zoom and webinar as a way to keep ourselves abreast and offer support where we can.

BizcommunityNow is the time to innovate and experiment. What is Khayelitsha Travel and Tours doing?

Khayelitsha Travel and Tours has always been inspired by people but lockdown has opened another avenue for me to discover. I joined forces with Ke Nako, a Luxembourg based NGO. Together we have launched an urban farm project in Khayelitsha to support local families.

Members of the community were selected to attend a training programme that has helped them to grow a communal garden which will benefit the community.

BizcommunityWhat has been your biggest lesson from all this?

Building relationships with the people that I have worked with has been key.

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