A Cape Town start-up offers tours of the city in 3G Wi-Fi equipped vehicles
Called Escape to the Cape, the company was founded by a former banker
Founder won the 2012 Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award
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Nestled in an epic landscape where two oceans meet in a flurry of foam and waves, Cape Town is one of the most photogenic places on Earth.
The city attracts millions of visitors each year who come to admire its vibrant sights and breath-taking scenery, snapping pictures along the way to serve as lasting mementos.
Usually, they have to buy expensive hotel Internet or wait until they get home to show them to friends and family, but now, thanks to a local start-up, they can share them almost instantly.
“Escape to the Cape,” brainchild of a 37-year-old former banker Shaheed Ebrahim, offers tours of the city in 3G Wi-Fi equipped vehicles which allows his clients to upload photos to Facebook and Instagram as soon as they take them.
Ebrahim got the idea for his venture after struggling to entertain his young children on car journeys: “My wife and I would give the kids iPads preloaded with games in order to keep them occupied, but we quickly realized that for many functions you had to be connected to the Internet,” he says.
The Cape Town native, who won the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2012, has always been passionate about his home city, and would regularly take family and friends visiting from overseas on sightseeing trips.
When the bank he was working for wanted him to relocate, he decided to leave the corporate world and use his payout to turn his hobby into a profession.
However, in South Africa’s tourism industry, which was worth nearly $9 billion in 2012 and represented around 4.6% of the country’s direct employment, competition among tour operators is stiff.
Ebrahim soon realized he needed to offer something that would make him stand out from the crowd: “We live in the technology age where people expect to exchange information instantly,” he says. “They want upload their pictures on Facebook and Instagram in real-time, and I often host bloggers who wish to publish articles and pictures immediately.”
When it comes to photo opportunities, Escape to the Cape tours offer plenty, visiting sites like Table Mountain and Cape Town’s colorful Bo Kaap district with its yellow, blue and pink houses.
If that doesn’t fill up your camera’s memory card, there’s also a chance to see penguin and sea lion colonies, and Cape Point, a World Heritage Site whose 200 meter high sheer cliffs cut deep into the mixing waters of Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The company now employs five permanent staff, but Ebrahim admits that things were far from rosy in the beginning: “It took two years for the firm to become profitable, which was nerve wracking, but we persevered,” he says.
Escape to the Cape is planning to introduce a new service where family and friends at home can take part in tours virtually, via online streaming in tour cars. He is also thinking of expanding his operations to other regions: “We have a transferable concept and there is no reason why it couldn’t work in other countries too,” he explains.
For now, his clients can sit back and watch those Facebook likes of their Table Mountain photos rolling.