Tour operator repurposes business to Agric

Without pandemics travel and tourism sector is one of the fastest growing areas, globally with players in businesses like agriculture watching in envy.

However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the sector is on its knees while agriculture has clawed back its glory days status.

Hence entrepreneurs are repurposing their assets to offset the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. One such businessperson is Samuel Tshekonyane of Big Sam Hubber Travel and Tours who has braced for dramatic drop in the tourism business by venturing into horticultural farming.

Trading under the name Big Sam Fresh Produce, Tshekonyane’s farm produces red pepper, yellow pepper, green peppers, cabbages, spinach, rape, beetroots, onions, choumoelier, tomatoes, pumpkins, butternuts, carrots, coriander herb, sweet potatoes, maize, beans, groundnuts and watermelons.

Three months after purchasing his farm at Mabele situated an hour’s drive from Kasane, lockdown came. He then decided to develop the farm as a way of sustaining himself.

“I had to come to terms with the reality and face the impact that COVID-19 was going to make especially in our travel and tourism industry,” explained Tshekonyane. “I engaged my employees about my idea of venturing into farming while waiting for the economy to open up, most of them liked the idea and joined me at the farm.”

Tshekonyane said the District Agricultural Officer was instrumental in guiding them to ensure that they produce for the market. They have been supplying Spar, Mr Veg, Choppies, and Street vendors in Kasane. He has also approached other retailers like Shoppers, Shoprite, and other Choppies outlets to supply them. “The reception has been overwhelming as people appreciate the quality of our produce. We also have regular clients and walk-ins,” he added. About a year ago, Tshekonyane was running his Big Sam Hubber Travel and Tourism, which he started in 2015 with the assistance of Local Entrepreneurial Authority (LEA). According to Tshekonyane, he had initially registered a company in 2011 while he was still an employee of Kalahari Holiday Tours. It was also during that time that he managed to use his savings to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser, a boat and also applied for an office space at the council.

“The LEA business developer by then unearthed the entrepreneurial spark in me. He told me that I had the potential to operate my own business and that as LEA they were always available to guide me throughout the way. I developed interest and asked him to give me a week to make a decision, but it rather took me two hours to decide to start my own company,” he recalled.

Starting with two employees, Tshekonyane said it wasn’t hard for them to penetrate the industry; they managed to increase their fleet with two more boats, another Toyota Land Cruiser and a combi to cater for their growing client base. He also increased his staff complement to 20. “I poached my first employee where he worked as a security guard. His work ethics were outstanding. I trained him to operate the boat until he was a professional. I also assisted my receptionist to get a driving licence as I believe in empowering people,” he said.

Big Sam Hubber offers game drives, boat cruises, day trips to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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