Tourism business development through Enterprise St Helena
St Helena Island is on the international travel industry’s lips: with the airport set to be completed in February 2016, the appointment of Comair Limited as the provider of air services to St Helena and the selection of Mantis as the preferred operator of the 123 Main Street Hotel, there is no better time to look at business opportunities within St Helena’s fledgling tourism industry. For entrepreneurs on the island, Enterprise St Helena offers assistance to potential business owners and those who are looking at expanding existing businesses.
Established as a statutory body, Enterprise St Helena (ESH) is responsible for tourism and the economic development of the island, and is the lead body responsible for promoting and enabling private sector development. ESH is focused on promoting the growth of the economy of St Helena, through the development of existing businesses, and the promotion of the island to new investors and developers.
For those thinking of starting up a new business or expanding an existing business, the Business Development Team would be their first port of call. Their responsibility is the provision of advisory and business information as well as financial support services to current and potential businesses. Resources available to the private sector include assistance with business start-up, expansion and diversification via SME (Small-Medium Enterprise) grants, economic development loans and equity finance and product research and sector development project funding.
A tourism businesses that has recently benefited from ESH’s assistance programme is Enchanted Isle Limited. This is their story:
Johnathan Herne has worked within the marine industry for over 20 years – fishing, operating the local ferry boats, and, more recently, within the marine tourism industry. When the time was right to expand their business, Johnathan and his partner Gina started looking online for a boat. Johnathan was very specific in what was needed; he wanted a multipurpose vessel with which to offer not only tours that were already available on the island, but also a wider variety of activities, including game fishing.
Johnathan and Gina said “It has always been our ambition to own and operate our own vessel. We must have looked at hundreds of boats before we finally identified the Enchanted Isle.” Highlighting the challenges that they faced, Johnathan chuckled: “We did not realise just how complex the project was going to be until we really got stuck into it. It was very stressful, a lot of hard work, and we were in and out of so many meetings it was unbelievable.”
Johnathan and Gina were finally able to submit an application for joint funding to the Bank of St Helena in the form of a loan and Enterprise St Helena under equity funding. They said: “We were over the moon when we received a positive response.”
The Enchanted Isle is by now a familiar sight in James Bay and a well-established tourism service provider to the island. Jonathan and Gina concludes: “We have to place on record our thanks to so many people for their support in realising our dream and who gave so much encouragement as we have worked through this project these past few years. To everyone who has kept us going when we often felt like giving up – thank you! If you are considering going into business, go for it, you won’t regret it!”
For more information, please visit the Enterprise St Helena website.