Q&A: With Salifou Siddo – CEO, Tourism Enterprise Partnership


What is your current position and can you also share some of your business background?

I have been in the position of CEO for TEP (Tourism Enterprise Partnership) since 3 January 2011. I started in the tourism industry in 1998 as Head of Communications at SANParks (South African National Parks) and one of my responsibilities was to assist in repositioning the organization as it was going through a transformation process which included changing the name from   National Parks Board (NPB) to SANParks. After spending three years there, it was time to move on and I became the CEO of the TGCSA (Tourism Grading Council of South Africa). My job essentially was to lead the development and rolling out the star rating system which is the quality assurance mechanism for the accommodation industry. After six years at the TGCSA, I moved on and joined Zatic Group in 2007.  This is a tourism investment company and one of its major achievements is the Soweto Hotel on Freedom Square in Kliptown, Soweto. I have since left Zatic to take up my new role at TEP.

Can you tell us a bit about your schooling career?

I was born in Niger and spent the better part of my youth there. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study in the USA at the Pennsylvania State University and completed both my Masters and PhD in the area of communication. It was while at Penn State that I met my wife Lindiwe, who is South African born. After finishing our studies we got married and decided to settle in South Africa in 1996. From being a permanent resident, I became a South African citizen in 2004.

What would you say makes you successful?

At the risk of sounding clichéd, I would say hard work, belief in your own abilities, and being able to work well with people.  There is no way you can achieve success on your own.  I also value humility as a core guiding principle.

What is TEP?

TEP was launched by the Business Trust in July 2000 in conjunction with the National Department of Tourism. TEP offers hands-on, step-by-step support, guidance and assistance to South Africa’s small, medium and micro tourism businesses – facilitating their growth, development and sustainability to become internationally competitive.

TEP is one of the largest, longest standing and most successful public private partnerships run in South Africa in any sector. Its objective is to improve the performance and increase the profitability of tourism small business, resulting in the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new jobs. TEP also focuses on increasing the participation of black tourism enterprises in the tourism industry and the development of small business growth strategies for long-term viability.

TEP has over 3,900 members who are involved in the various sectors of the tourism industry, including accommodation, travel agencies, tour operators, activities, social and heritage products, arts and craft.

What do you like most about what you do?

I love the idea of taking a project from a mere idea to building it up into something concrete and real.  An example of this was the TGCSA. When I was initially appointed to the Council in 2000, the organisation didn’t exist, so we started on a blank sheet. Within 12 months, we were able to design and launch the national star grading system to the accommodation sector. That was very exciting. By the time I left the TGCSA in 2007, close on 70% of hotels and other accommodation establishments in the country had joined, which was a great achievement for all of us.  Leading TEP to achieve its mandate of tourism SMME development and job creation is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to engaging corporate and other funders to enlist their support in this regard.   

What are some of the challenges you face in your line of business?

As you are aware, President Jacob Zuma, in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year has identified the tourism sector as one of the sectors targeted for job creation.  As TEP, we are well positioned to help tourism SMMEs grow and with growth comes job creation. However, for us to achieve greater success in this endeavour, we need to leverage corporate support, through our Enterprise Development Portfolio (EDP), to match the funding that we receive from government. This is a challenge, but it can be done.

How can people reach you?

We can be contacted on the phone on+27 (0) 11 880 3790 or via our website tep.co.za