Amanda Mathe, creator of the Zula app that can help you find hidden KZN gems, shares her journey

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Amanda Mathe is the brains behind the Zula App and one of the young people selected to be part of the Tourism Technology Grassroots Innovation Incubator Programme (TTGIIP), aimed at stimulating tourism.
Amanda Mathe is the brains behind the Zula App and one of the young people selected to be part of the Tourism Technology Grassroots Innovation Incubator Programme (TTGIIP), aimed at stimulating tourism.
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So, you’re on holiday in KwaZulu-Natal but you do not want to do the ‘touristy stuff’. You're looking to go off the beaten track and visit the places for leisure only locals would know about.

Besides being friendlier on the pocket, these kinds of hidden gems are not easily found by searching on your internet browser. But they exist.

Zula, an app, developed by 31-year-old Amanda Mathe, a sort of Uber for hospitality graduates in the province will connect these unemployed graduates to tourists who want to explore specific areas.

“We connect tourism graduates with 4IR technology. So, when you are in around KwaZulu-Natal you download the app and tell it the area which you would like to explore," says Amanda of her soon-to-be laucnhed app, Zula, which means 'explore'.

Read more | Hospitality graduates in high demand outside of traditional roles

"The app then connects you to a graduate who sends you a public or central meeting spot. From there, you walk around with the graduate enjoying the area like a local and they tell you historical information about the area,”  explains the techpreneur who has extensive experience in both the technology and tourism industries.

“We are a directory, and this is a concierge experience. While in Morocco years ago, a shop owner took me through the market in Marrakesh and I thought this could work back home in South Africa."

“It was in 2020 during hard lockdown when I had a conversation with a friend about actually doing it and giving people an 'on the ground' experience.”

She says, realistically, between the number of tourism students graduating and those who lost their jobs when the hospitality industry took a knock because of Covid-19, there are not enough jobs.

“Tourism graduates cannot all be absorbed into the market, so then why not get them to work in their communities and give people tours?

With high youth unemployment rates in the province and a tourism sector that's trying to recover after Covid-19 regulations saw many businesses go under, Amanda sees Zula playing a crucial role in renewing interest in KZN tourism.

“This app is great because it showcases cultural experiences, not just shisanyamas. This is done by people who live in those communities, and they know the ins and outs.”

Amanda, who is partnering with tourism graduates to show visitors historical sites and places for leisure and entertainment, adds that for now her app "is web based and has not been opened to members of the public yet".

"We are aiming for the public to have access to it on Tourism Month, which is September.” 

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The app will be safe to use too, adds Amanda. The whole tour is monitored and tracked and you pay for it with your card details like you pay for anything else online, she tells Drum.

“We do not want to use cash because it poses a security risk. At the end, you get to rate the app and the graduate.”

Amanda is one of the young techpreneurs selected to be part of the  Tourism Technology Grassroots Innovation Incubator Programme (TTGIIP) launched by Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, on Youth Month.

The TTGIIP aims to introduce a pool of young innovators to lead efforts to stimulate growth of the local travel sector through technological advancements.

A collaboration between the Department of Tourism, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entity, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the incubator programme provides young entrepreneurs and SMMEs in the tech space with mentoring opportunities.

For now, Zula is only operating in KwaZulu-Natal, but Amanda says the plan is to expand the service to other parts of the country.

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