Since inception in 2021, the Tourism Business Coaching & Mentoring programme has mentored and coached 70 graduates from the tourism and hospitality enterprises in Botswana. The second cohort of graduates recently graduated, and the next cohort is slated for 13 May to 30 July 2023. The programme is conceptualised by City & Safari International, a Destination Management Company (DMC) established in 2017.

The Mentoring programme imparts practical skills to aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to venture into the tourism and hospitality industry, as well as tourism businesses that are already in operation including but not limited to hotels, lodges, guest houses, mobile safari operators, travel agents, tour operators, and travel photographers.

In addition, the benefits to start-ups include the enhancement of awareness on issues such as product development and branding, while existing businesses can use insights to reposition their brands and offerings in the market. During the course of the programme, it covers topics that include understanding the tourism value chain, what it takes to operate lodge in remote area, importance of belonging to an association, moving from idea to action, defining target markets, business planning, financial planning, developing digital marketing strategy, branding tourism business, business insurance, customer service excellence, design & guest experiences, travel show readiness.

One of the graduates who recently completed the programme is none other than Warona George. George is very keen to start her own travel agency. She also dreams to see more Batswana venturing into tourism. She explains that she joined the programme as she wanted to learn more about the tourism landscape. “I really got more from the programme,” she explains.

She further says that she learnt some valuable lessons including the importance of knowing and studying your specific market/clients, knowing your products and what clients want. “We had diverse facilitators and the programme had mentees from different fields including photographers, owners of mobile safaris and so forth,” she said. She further recommends the programme to anyone who is passionate about tourism.

“I am not established yet, but it gave me that spark,” she said noting that while she has a different background, she is looking forward to tapping into her passion for tourism, and starting her own company. Another graduate happened to be Tshepo Phokoje, a Nature and Wildlife photographer who owns Vixen Photography. Like George, she wants to encourage Batswana to travel and experience the beauty of Botswana.

She also shares that having been in this field, she is working on growing her company, and tapping into opportunities that exists in her field. She appreciates the conversations that they had during the programme, with facilitators such as CEDA, BTO and LEA. One of the things that she appreciates about the programme is how she got to hear and learn about more areas that she has not been able to reach, which can add to her profile.

“It opened my eyes to other corners of Botswana that I am yet to reach, and which can be tapped into,” she explains. She also explains that she got to have the chance to hear first-hand what those who are in tourism are experiencing. In the long run, she says that she is looking at possibly turning this into a business and also teaching and sharing her passion with others who are keen to learn about Nature and Wildlife Photography.

Something else that she wishes to change, is seeing more women venturing into Nature and Wildlife Photography. Speaking in an interview with this publication, Coordinator of the event, Tshepiso Mganga, explains that the programme was conceptualised as a response to the challenges that the Tourism Industry faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She explains that it was during that period, that the Tourism Business Coaching & Mentorship Programme was born. “Upon realising the need for tourism operators to get back on track after the slump, I leveraged my network to assemble a team of professionals across the various disciplines that are critical for the operation of a tourism enterprise,” she says.

She also shares that during the course of the programme, they host bi-weekly sessions which are delivered virtually by several experts and professionals within the tourism industry, with the hope that there will be more in-person sessions in the future. She further explains that the three-month programme for this year, recently concluded with an educational tour to Chobe Game Lodge.

“The tour brought practical elements to the programme learning, specifically on running a sustainable facility in a remote area. The tour demonstrated the value of environmental sustainability, with the participants being sensitised on level of investment that goes into developing and running an ecotourism product, including encapsulating aspects of reduce, re-use, and recycle in relation to all inputs of running the business,” she explains.

She further says that participants also got to appreciate the return on investment of ecotourism in terms of reduction of costs of operations, enhanced profitability, as well as conservation of the ecosystem. The tour was sponsored by Desert & Delta Safaris, who have been a valuable partner of the programme. Meanwhile, she shared that the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) is another valuable partner, and that this year they sponsored thirteen (13) participants to be part of the programme.

The programme is sponsored by City & Safari International, a Destination Management Company (DMC) established in 2017. City & Safari International specialises in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions, as well as luxury safari planning & bookings covering Botswana and extending to Cape Town, Livingstone, Victoria, and Namibia.