‘We’re disrupting the market in every way we can,” says Phakamile Hlazo of her role as a tech-enabled entrepreneur in the tourism industry. Through her company Zulu Nomad she seeks to inspire and inform others about the opportunities for travel in Africa and beyond.
At 21, Hlazo was awarded a Rotary International Scholarship and became a South African ambassador to the United Kingdom. She represented South Africa proudly, and upon her return realised that the international travel bug had bitten, then made her way to work and live in China for three years. During this time she established an Instagram account to share her experiences and was quickly overwhelmed with requests for travel tips — a trend that continued as she met friends from around the world and travelled to all corners of the globe to visit them.
It was from this hunger for travel knowledge that Hlazo’s business grew: not only did she enjoy sharing her experiences, but also found fulfilment in reassuring fellow travellers about their options and how to share in the “insider” experiences that she’d discovered. To allow for further growth of this skill, she founded her tourism startup that offers curated travel experiences in Southern Africa. She noticed that those asking for advice were often only aware of higher-end travel options, so she’s devoted particular attention to ensuring that backpacking and other more affordable adventures are highlighted. “It’s about deciding how we want to travel,” she explains. “I try to find really unique experiences.”
Zulu Nomad employs a small team of full-time staff in South Africa and Mozambique and works with Black-owned small businesses in the tourism sector. The company has been particularly impactful in the lives of a small community in Tofo, Mozambique: by bringing tourists to the region a regular basis, the business has created a sustainable year-round income for its residents. Skillful use of social media have won the destination much attention online, leading to the creation of jobs both in South Africa and Mozambique. Hlazo’s vision includes implementing similar measures in more of the countries that she and her company visit, spreading the word about the possibilities of travel, and spearheading initiatives such as The Africa Travel Hackathon to bring the potential of tech in tourism to life. – Cayleigh Bright