The Questions 100 – No. 6: Bheki on Creating First Inner-City Hostel in Johannesburg

NO. 6 : HOW IS TOURISM IN JOHANNESBURG CHANGING?

BKEKI (@BHEKIDUP) ANSWERS.

LOCATION: JOHANNESBURG, South Africa.

“My thoughts on the tourism industry in Johannesburg; it’s not yet a saturated market. You need more hostels, more tour operators and you need locals to have sustainable businesses within the industry. Right now it’s still white-dominated. The people conducting the tours aren’t from the same landscape. So you need more youth to pioneer that industry and tell their own stories because they come from these spaces. And I think Curiocity has been able to create that foundation and we need more models like Curiocity to be replicated throughout the landscape.

"The Questions 100," Bheki

I basically started with walking tours and I guess the next natural progression was to create a space where you’re not hosting people for just five hours on a tour but for a longer duration. What we’ve basically pioneered is being able to pay attention to design, detail, and offer an authentic-design led accommodation model. One, local within the landscape and also offer in-house experiences so it’s not like we’re outsourcing. Everything is internal. So from our inner-city tours, cycle tours, to picnics in the sky, Soweto walking tours, it gives us basically an advantage to be able to host people for a longer duration, because we have these experiences internally in the space. And I think overall atmosphere. Being located in Maboneng, with so many culinary offerings to galleries, theatres, museums. It’s a holistic urban African experience that you’ll never find anywhere else in Africa.

"The Questions 100," Bheki

I think being situated in Johannesburg is a challenge all its own. The perception of Johannesburg has been a very negative one. And that already influences the number of visitors coming into the inner-city. It influences your occupancy and so forth. I think with that said, I think we’ve been able to change that scenario or change the way people see Johannesburg and say hey it’s a city with great history, heritage, a lot of hidden treasures and it’s not that bad at all. It’s not a criminal-infested city. With the success of this first Curiocity in Johannesburg, I think what this has done, is it’s opened a mindset or the opportunity to replicate these models throughout Africa.

Curiocity Backpackers

There are a lot of rewarding aspects to it. I think one has been to be able to change the travelers mind and then going back home fulfilled. Internally as well, I think being able to have a great strong team of young entrepreneurs. My staff, it’s like amazing to see everyone grow and we’re all young and we’re proud about the product that we’re selling. The one thing I’ve learned really is it’s basically finding something that you love and fully committing to it. Putting all your energy and all your strength into it and investing all your time in that. And really finding self. And I think as young Black kids we’re always seeking to find our paths.

 "The Questions 100," Bheki

And for me, I’ve been very lucky to at least establish one of my paths at a very young age and for now its hospitality and this is just the foundation of many other streams of consciousness that I want to basically venture into it. That’s where the general mindset of Joburgers are. It might not be entrepreneurship. It might be activism and so forth, but I think the kids right now are finding something that they really believe in and they’re sticking to it.

You know what’s funny, I don’t know if you’re going to include this, but I treat Curiocity like an album. Like you know when an artist drops an album, I think after every month when you look at your occupancy, it’s like yo I just dropped this you know. But going back to the music, hip-hop poetry, it’s entrenched in our DNA. And everything that I do at Curiocity is influenced by the things that I’ve always loved so to the music to the little gallery at the back. So it’s just really putting everything that I enjoy into one space. And for now it’s hip-hop and sometimes jazz; it’s just things that I love that I put into the space.”

"The Questions 100," Bheki

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