Flight attendant Vulthari Ndlovu's passion for travel led him to spot a gap in the tourism industry for LGBT+ tourists.
He and his business partner Lipian Mtandabari founded Ntsako Travel Africa last year. The tourism product specialises in tours and wedding and event planning for foreign tourists of the LGBT+ community.
Ndlovu spoke to Fin24 on the sidelines of the Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) world travel trade show, which started this week in Berlin, Germany.
He explained that he met Mtandabari in Ghana. Mtandabari had been running his own tourism business for the LGBT+ community which started in Zimbabwe in 2012, but the two decided to combine forces and focus on getting LGBT+ tourists to South Africa where there are no legislative restrictions against the LGBT+ community.
Ntsako was officially registered in October 2018, and Ndlovu still works as a flight attendant. He is at ITB to promote the offering and to strike partnerships which will be beneficial for the business.
He said that it is sometimes difficult and he finds that he has to go to bed hungry just to make sure the business can continue to survive.
But he is pushing to keep the idea alive because of the potential the LGBT+ tourism has to grow in SA.
Research by LGBT+ insights and market research consultancy OutNow revealed at the WTM travel trade show in London last year that the combined annual spend of the LGBT+ community is over $218bn.
He explained that LGBT+ travelers often just stop at Cape Town, and do not realise there is more in SA to explore. He and Mtandabari want to promote and inform these tourists that they will be safe in other parts of SA.
He has also had to explain to tourists that they can have a wedding ceremony and honeymoon in SA.
"People are shocked to learn that. That's how I realised there was a gap [in the market]," he said.
"Who wouldn't want to get married and take a photo with elephants in the background?"
Ndlovu explained this aspect of the business has huge potential for growth, as LGBT+ individuals mostly opt out of having wedding ceremonies in places of worship because of the discrimination by some religions. For those who choose not to get married in places of worship, SA has beaches with sunset backgrounds, he said.
Ndlovu added that he and Mtandabari would start promoting other countries on the continent as laws progress. "The main aim is to guarantee clients will be safe."
*Fin24 is a guest of SA Tourism, which is exhibiting at ITB Berlin.