South African Tourism uplifts SMMEs at the Arabian Travel Market


South African Tourism, along with a group of small South African tourism businesses in South Africa’s tourism sector are taking the international stage at Dubai’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

ATM is the leading Middle East B2B exhibition which brings together over 2 800 exhibitors, and 26 000 visitors from around the world to meet, network and do business. The show takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 1- 4 May.

At this trade fair, these SMMEs are showcasing their brands alongside the crème de la crème of the industry, including top established tourist destinations, cutting-edge travel technology providers, leading airlines, and giants in hospitality and accommodation.

The tourism industry was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Small, Medium to Macro Enterprises (SMMEs) were hit the hardest. In an effort to support their recovery, South African Tourism is providing these businesses with an opportunity to showcase their offering at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

The move is part of the tourism sector recovery plan, which recognises the important role and contribution of SMMEs to the sector, especially in the accommodation and hospitality sub-sectors.
The inclusion of SMMEs at ATM is expected to yield positive results not only for the participating businesses but for the industry as a whole.

“SMMEs are a very critical part of our tourism offering. Through these businesses, we are able to showcase a wide range of tourism products and experiences that travellers are looking for. By having these SMMEs taking part at trade shows of this magnitude, we are able to fully show the world what our country has to offer as a business events and leisure destination, “says South African Tourism Chief Operations Officer, Nomasonto Ndlovu.

South African Tourism is doing this in partnership with STEA’s, whose core mission is to empower small businesses through engagement, employment, and active participation in the tourism sector. This partnership demonstrates SA Tourism’s commitment to supporting the growth and success of small businesses in the tourism sector.

In the year 2022, South Africa emerged as an appealing destination for international travellers, welcoming 5.7 million visitors from various parts of the world. Middle Eastern arrivals amounted to 40 6000. The Middle East is the only one to have fully recovered in terms of air capacity. The number of seats available to South Africa from the region in 2023 is 95.9% of the seats that were available before the pandemic in 2019, and arrivals from the Middle region have surpassed their previous share and are now representing 0.7% of all arrivals.

“The UAE, and more specifically Dubai is home to many expats, this presents a wonderful opportunity for SMMEs to meet and engage a broader audience and create lasting impressions. By participating in events such as Arabian Travel Market, they get to expand their reach beyond local boundaries,” said Ndlovu.

She added that “the participation of these small businesses at the ATM is expected to contribute to boosting destination competitiveness, catalysing industry transformation, and accelerating tourism growth.

Small Tourism Enterprise Association (STEA) reports that participants from last year’s ATM returned home with lucrative deals with some companies even forging strategic collaborations to bolster their ground-handling services and product offerings.

Jabu Matsilele, Chairperson of STEA, emphasised the importance of market access for small businesses, saying, “It plays a key role as a strategy for transformation in the industry, where historically disadvantaged enterprises are still at the bottom of the pyramid. The domination of large companies across various value chains makes it challenging for small businesses to operate within the value chain. Therefore, platforms like ATM offer invaluable market access opportunities for small businesses to participate in both global and local markets.”


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