Amanda Mathe is the mastermind behind the Zula app and one of the young people selected to be part of the Tourism Technology Innovation Incubator Program (TTGIIP), aimed at boosting tourism.
So, you’re on holiday in KwaZulu-Natal but don’t feel like doing the ‘tourist stuff’. You are looking to get off the beaten track and visit the places of entertainment that only locals know about.
Besides being friendlier on the pocket, these types of hidden gems are not easily found by searching on your internet browser. But they exist.
Zula, an app, developed by Amanda Mathe, 31, a sort of Uber for hospitality graduates in the province, will connect those unemployed graduates with tourists who want to explore specific areas.
“We connect tourism graduates to 4IR technology. So when you’re around KwaZulu-Natal, you download the app and tell it the area you want to explore,” Amanda says of her soon-to-be-launched app, Zula, which means ‘explore’.
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“The app then connects you to a graduate who sends you a public or central meeting place. From there, you walk around with the graduate enjoying the area like a local and he gives you historical information about the area,” explains the techpreneur who has extensive experience in the technology and tourism sectors.
“We’re a directory, and it’s a concierge experience. While I was in Morocco years ago, a shop owner showed me around the market in Marrakech and I thought this might work back home in South Africa.”
“It was in 2020, during a tough 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 hit from Covid-19, there aren’t enough jobs.
“Not all tourism graduates can be absorbed into the market, so why not have them work in their communities and show people around?
With high youth unemployment rates in the province and a tourism sector trying to recover after Covid-19 regulations saw many businesses fail, Amanda sees Zula playing a crucial role in renewing the economy. interest in KZN tourism.
“This app is great because it showcases cultural experiences, not just shisanyamas. It’s made by people who live in those communities, and they know the ins and outs.
Amanda, who partners with tourism graduates to show visitors historic sites and places for recreation and entertainment, adds that for now her app “is web-based and has not yet been opened to the audience”.
“We are aiming for the public to have access to it during Tourism Month, which is in September.”
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The app will also be safe to use, adds Amanda. The whole tour is monitored and tracked and you pay with your card details like you pay for anything else online, she tells Drum.
“We don’t want to use cash as it poses a security risk. At the end, you can rate the application and the graduate.”
Amanda is one of the young techpreneurs selected to be part of the Tourism Technology Innovation Incubator Program (TTGIIP) launched by Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela on Youth Month.
The TTGIIP aims to introduce a group of young innovators to lead efforts to drive the growth of the local travel industry through technological advancements.
The result of a collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entity, the Technological Innovation Agency (TIA), the incubator program offers young entrepreneurs and mentoring opportunities for SMEs in the tech space.
For now, Zula only operates in KwaZulu-Natal, but Amanda says the plan is to expand the service to other parts of the country.