In the spirit of commemorating Youth Month, the department of tourism in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), has on Thursday launched the Tourism Technology Grassroots Innovation Incubator Programme (TTGIIP). TIA is an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation and it is the main implementing partner.
Leveraging technologies and innovations
The initiative will serve as a platform for youth to excel and use technology innovation to stimulate the growth and recovery of the tourism sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has nearly annihilated the tourism, travel and hospitality industry and countries around the world are harnessing the latest technologies and innovations to revive the sector.
Delivering his keynote speech, deputy minister of tourism, Mr Fish Mahlalela said: “To be tech-savvy has become synonymous with being young. Indeed, the time has come for the government to adopt its modalities and embrace innovation, especially as we are recovering from a near-catastrophic world event.” A cohort of twenty (20) tech-savvy entrepreneurs, between the ages of 18 and 35, were selected to begin a two-year journey in tourism’s incubator programme to advance the design and business viability of their prototypes. According to Mr Mahlalela, once finalised, the innovations will be introduced to the sector and potential investors for funding, implementation, or as resources for new ventures new business entrants in tourism.
Meaningful engagement of youth and women
The launch of TTGIIP aims to meaningfully involve youth and women in the travel and hospitality industry by capitalising on their intellectual and technological prowess to evolve traditional business systems and practices to stimulate new services, entrepreneurial and job opportunities in the sector, said Mr. Mahlalela. This programme is launched against the backdrop of the high youth unemployment which the recent Labour Force Survey by Statistic South Africa puts it at over 60%. Mr Mahlalela said noted that the youth, who constitute a large majority of the country’s demographic, have been hard hit by the economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stimulating new services
“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 that will unlock sustainable livelihoods,” said Mr. Mahlalela, adding that “As government, we believe that tech-based innovation can greatly stimulate new services, entrepreneurial and job opportunities.”
Expanding the impact of innovation
Dr. Anitha Ramsuran, manager of innovation for inclusive development at TIA said: “The partnership with the Department of Tourism is part of TIA’s Hub and Spoke Partnership model that seeks to expand the impact of innovation in the country by forming partnerships with government departments. Through the TTGIIP we will see young people demonstrate the role of technology in catalysing sector growth through the development of enterprises that will stimulate job creation in the tourism sector.”
The right partnership
Mr Mahlalela said TIA is an ideal partner because it has a national network of technology centres and partners that will provide critical infrastructure for the incubation of small businesses in this sector. He said some of the advantages of the partnership include the fact that TIA will optimise its internal expertise that can be harnessed at no cost. In addition, TIA has already worked in conjunction with the Innovation Hub and other Small Enterprise Development Agency technology incubators one of which involves tourism. He said incubates will be supported through business ideation, prototype development, and market testing and commercialisation phases.
He said TIA will also 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 boost, sustain and create more jobs in the tourism industry.
The TTGIIP programme aims to help participants by focusing on the following objectives:
• To inspire innovation amongst enterprises in the travel and hospitality sector,
• To involve youth and women in tourism business operations,
• To facilitate commercialisation and market access funding in the travel and hospitality businesses, and
• Create new jobs and skills development.
The department has budgeted an amount of R6 million over two years for this programme. TIA has committed to match the funding to help cover all programme administration, incubation services and project implementation costs. This will bring the total budget for the project in two years to R9 845, 000. The TTGIIP programme model consists of grant funding for the proposed innovation including the following support activities:
• Intellectual Property Support;
• Product & technical development expertise, design, infrastructure, hard/software materials and manufacturing;
• Business development support;
• Networking and market access activities;
• Training, mentorship and incubation support; and
• Industry compliance and certification
“We hope that the success of this first cohort of TTGIIP innovators is testament of the role of TIA as industry builder. TIA will play its part in facilitating and translating the Innovations of the twenty (20) tourism entrepreneurs into sustainable enterprises that will make an economic impact not just in the industry but in their communities as well,” concluded Dr Ramsuran.