Tourism Businesses

What’s the greatest threat to most tourism businesses?

You, the business owner and especially you – and me – the small business owner (and small business – as we all know – is the backbone of tourism).

Think about it: there’s nothing more dangerous to a business than an indispensable member of staff. I was reminded of this recently when I was hit by a long period of illness – which explains why you haven’t received my e-mails for a couple of months: I, the indispensable (read ‘only’) member of staff was man-down so the business was closed.

I’m lucky, though – I don’t have anybody relying on me for their income, I had some resources to fall back on and my clients stuck by me (“Don’t worry,” they said. “You’ll get better and then you can catch up with our work.” If only they knew how I’d be worrying when I DID get better – and when I discovered, once again, that the day is STILL just 24 hours long).helpful siteĀ

I’ve been through this before, though, and I’m learning both how to handle the illness better (it recurs) and how to handle the business of staying out of trouble better (you need planning and resources)

But this time the experience got me thinking about other people.

Tourism is the darling of governments all over the world – especially in emerging economies where it’s expected to create jobs by the gazillion (and where they talk about things like ‘sustainable tourism.’ And I worry about that, too, because I don’t see the transport industry – which props up the tourism industry – as being particularly sustainable, what with the oil reserves running out and all. But that’s a discussion for another day).

How many of the jobs which tourism creates are effectively one-person businesses? And what protection is there for them against their greatest enemy – their own indispensability? Especially in emerging economies?

Do you see why I’m spinning here? How do you even begin to address a question like that?

I trawled the net for answers – and in the process found (of course) some fascinating and useful sites (try for a mind-boggling array of research reports and case studies. And in case you didn’t know, the site tells us that “Pro-Poor Tourism is tourism that results in increased net benefits for poor people.” It’s a worthwhile resource for South Africans – who need to be sensitive to the rights and feelings of the poor and how ‘tourism development’ can impact positively or negatively on peoples’ lives. And on that note, you might also like to download the report Facilitating pro-poor tourism with the private sector: Lessons learned from ‘Pro-Poor Tourism Pilots in Southern Africa).

But I didn’t come up with any answers.

I think it’s in the nature of tourism that it’ll always be driven by small enterprise – micro enterprises, even. In that way it’s very similar to the Internet, which has its giants (which, like Google, “Do No Harm”), but where the real meat is in the stuff that talks to the individual.

And like the net, the exciting thing about tourism is that it’s about people talking to people – one on one.

So I guess the fact of our being our own greatest threat is something we all just have to live with. But it’s thinking about things like this that sharpen the mind, wouldn’t you say?