You may know him better as Mr Mozambique, but regardless there is one thing that is simply indisputable: Martijn Mellaart is that rare kind of person who sees opportunities where others see only obstacles. And so it makes sense that while most were caught in a spiral of well-founded panic over the pandemic, Martijn saw a chance to dust off a product from Tourvest’s shelf, and offer it to small and medium-sized DMCs in Southern Africa, free of charge, as a business-saving tool.
Who is Martijn?
Originally from the Netherlands, Martijn was born into an ex-pat family that lived all over Africa while his father worked for the United Nations. It was this that brought him back to Mozambique and South Africa over the years – and while chatting to an elderly couple who were running a guesthouse on the gorgeous banks of the Crocodile River, he had an epiphany that he too could escape his grey office life in Europe and instead run a successful tourism business while living somewhere beautiful. That was 23 years ago and he hasn’t looked back since.
He began by opening Uitkyk Holidays in Nelspruit and then saw a gap in Mozambique, which had been, and arguably still is, considered by many to be a “difficult” destination to get to know. He explains: “Some people are just made for challenges. Being an entrepreneur, I love to tackle difficulties and also just so happen to have a lot of energy. Mozambique was a difficult destination, but at the same time, this created an opportunity and gap in the market.” And so Mozambique Voyages was born.
Perhaps it’s the decades of karate training which saw him earning the title of Dutch champion, or the six Cape Epics with podium finishes that he has under his belt, but it seems that no hurdle is too high for Martijn. Which is just as well, because in February 2019, he joined Tourvest and rebranded Mozambique Voyages with the plan of launching its new Sense of Oceans division – and just as it was gaining momentum, the pandemic hit and everything came to a standstill.
What was the inspiration behind e.DMC?
It was during a meeting that Martijn was inspired by the rallying cry to come out of this crisis even stronger than before. Not just as Tourvest, but as an industry. A while back, Tourvest developed a platform to monetise its B2B database, e.DMC, which it later parked, but because of his 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience, combined with his recent time in the corporate space, Martijn understood the product had a new role to play. A role that could make a massive difference to struggling small- and medium-sized DMCs.
“So many people – many of whom were the pioneers in inbound tourism – were being retrenched, and I had to ask: are we just going to let them disappear into other industries, or are we going to try and help them?”. The tool, e.DMC, provides these people with a fully loaded and maintained reservations system and payment portal, allowing them to make the most of their knowledge and potentially set up their own tourism business with just a laptop while working from home. Additionally, surviving DMCs who are just managing to keep their heads above water with no funds left for systems or the necessary staff to run them, could also benefit from the cost-savings of running with this specially made-for-purpose software.
On November 1, 2020, e.DMC was launched as a fully operational Enterprise Management Platform and offered to small- and medium-sized DMCs with no fee or contract attached. For Martijn, this was a step towards ensuring that we come out of this crisis with a healthy tourism industry – something that we will all benefit from.
“There is no doubt that to survive as an entrepreneur, you need to have a lot of physical and mental motivation. Which is why we have to support each other. If a lot of DMCs and other service providers disappear, what will we have left? We need to help each other to stand out as a world-class destination and rebuild our industry,” he concludes.
Watch our conversation with Martijn Mellaart here.