It's almost time for the festive season and with Covid-19 restrictions all the way out, South Africans are ready to travel.
And Khotso Micha (35) is ready to cash in on it. He runs one of the few young, black-owned tourism companies in the Western Cape.
He is passionate about traveling and thrives on sharing authentic African stories about each place he visits.
“We have the most beautiful country in the world. Just the Graden route alone, you can experience the Cango Caves, the beaches, and taste the different food and learn so much about the layered history of our country,” he tells Drum.
“Being able to share South African history is fulfilling. There is always something new to learn with every trip.” Khotso says the biggest misconception about travelling is that it is expensive.
“Traveling is not expensive at all. People think that you need to spend thousands of rands to be able to travel, whereas a good trip can cost as little as R2000, depending on good deals and the season,” he adds.
Born and raised in Cape Town and Grahamstown, Khotso was fortunate to have quite a diverse upbringing.
“I was raised by my grandmother, who was a live-in domestic worker in Grahamstown, until I moved to Cape Town and living in Manenberg and Nyanga East.”
Khotso became quite independent from an early age.
“I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to South Africa College High School (SACS) and stayed at boarding school. This definitely helped keep me out of trouble. I started playing rugby and managed to get a bursary to UCT as well. I had the opportunity to travel to the US and to work at the Ritz Carlton in Florida. That was the real start of my love for hospitality and tourism.”
When he returned to the Western Cape, Khotso took a few trips to the Wild Coast. “I then decided to relocate and work at a backpacker and where I managed a hotel. I was there for three years. That's where my guiding began as well. Whilst driving guests on 4x4 tours through the beautiful rolling hills of the old Transkei, I was convinced that my only return to the Cape would be marked by opening my own tour company,” he says.
This is where he also met his wife. “She actually convinced me to quit my job and move back to the Cape.”
He now owns a successful travel and tourism company, Southern Xplorer which he opened in 2018. Before starting his own business, he studied Tourism (National Culture Guiding) and Business Management.
When he started out, he was running a one-man show. “Now, I have two full-time staff members and five regular freelance tour guides. When I started, I did everything alone from, bookings, quotes, and guides,“ he says.
When he started, he approached many potential funders. “In the beginning, I filled in so many funding applications. Sadly, none of them ever materialized. Some never even responded,” he says.
“It never put me off because I truly believed I could offer a great service. All I wanted to do was to share what I love with the world. It was mainly through family support and multiple freelance guiding jobs that helped me to start the business,” he adds.
It hasn't been an easy journey but through his support from family, he has managed to be patient and grow his business.
“With this business, you need to be open to self-improvement and continuous learning. I learn something new every day,” he says.
Khotso’s company offers a variety of tours that are not limited to the Garden Route. “We offer Cape Town Day tours in the Cape Peninsula, Winelands, and custom tours around. We recently took some people through the West Coast Day Tours and Multi-day tours and through the Garden and Wild Coast."
Khotso says in tourism there are many challenges, and the competition is tough. “There are many companies that offer similar services, but it is about adding your personal touch to every trip and making it memorable for everyone. There is also a lot of red tape with regulations for start-ups in the tourism sector. It's been tough to scale up so more patience is required.”
He never intended to focus only on the Garden Route when we started. “I was and still am primarily focused on regions like the West Coast and the Wild Coast. I strongly believe that these regions need more limelight. The communities in these areas stand to gain so much from tourism,” he adds.
“They have such a unique offering. My hopes are that positive and sustainable tourism in these regions continues to grow.”
What brings him joy, is seeing happy faces. “A happy smile at the end of a tour and the friendships made along the way. That really makes me happy. Being able to contribute to someone else's memories of our beautiful country,” he says.
His business has helped him to learn how to manage his finances,“Handling finance is key. I honestly never thought I'd have to ever have an in-depth understanding of Bookkeeping and financial projections,” he says.
“Dealing with different personalities is also something that one needs in this sort of business. That becomes an important skill only acquired by doing many trips with all kinds of nationalities.”
Khotso hopes that more South Africans would travel and explore the country before going outside.
“I’ve found that South Africans are starting to get out there to explore their own country. We just need to understand that we have some of the best offerings in the world. We also have such a diverse offering. There is something for all budgets. People need to scale down on the accommodation, it can still be comfortable but doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Doing that allows one to do many activities on a trip,“ he adds.