Not only is Segway Tours changing the way people see the world, but it’s changing the way the world sees business, offering small and medium-sized enterprises growth opportunities, attracting foreign investment, creating jobs and driving various other development opportunities along the way.
Introduced into the South African market by Imperial Green Mobility, The Segway – a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle – has taken the tourism industry by storm, and it’s not surprising either. The Segway offers group tours across the world from the bright lit streets of San Francisco, to the bustling alleys of Chinatown, through the historic buildings, monuments and memorials of India and the crowded urban areas of Israel. With South Africa home to some of the most beautiful destinations and landscapes it made perfect sense that Segway Tours be rolled into our country.
“Initially Segway Tours were globally seen as a ‘unique’ experiences but today these tours are offered across continents,” says Jonathan Cohen, managing director of Imperial Green Mobility. “There is no better way to see a city, a resort, an attraction – any place of beauty for that matter – than on a Segway. Riding a Segway feels like nothing you’ve ever experienced because there’s never been anything like it. The Segway is so intuitive you don’t have to concentrate on riding it and you can take in everything that’s around you. The amazing feeling of riding a Segway coupled with the amazing sights, smells and sounds of a unique place have made Segway Tours a worldwide phenomena.”
The Segway was brought into South African by Cohen 12 years ago with Tours first offered at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and Sun City Resort. “Everyone said I was crazy and that Segway Tours would never catch on in our country yet today there are over 12 Segway Tours in operation and each Tour is highly profitable,” says Cohen. “In addition to the V&A Waterfront and Sun City, tours also now operate at Moses Mabhida Stadium along the Durban Golden Mile, Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, The Royal Livingstone in Zambezi, Tsitsikamma (including Wilderness and Storms River), Ivory Tree Game Lodge in Pilanesberg, Wildcoast Sun in the Eastern Cape, Grabouw in the Western Cape and Drakensburg in the picturesque Champagne Valley.”
With a focus on helping grow small businesses, Imperial Green Mobility have, in the last year, sold a number of their Segway Tours. “The Segway unit is so robust it lasts for years, making it a really good business investment,” says Cohen. “Entrepreneurs usually battle to find funding to start off their own business, which is why we offer the rental option of Segways to them before purchasing the units outright. While there is an initial investment in terms of buying the units, businesses can pay their Segways off in under two years and start making a profit whereas the average business takes at least four years before it gets off the ground. I am proud to say that we have never had to close down a Segway Tour due to profitability reasons and that each and every Tour we have sold thus far is thriving under new ownership.”
In addition, Imperial Green Mobility assists small and medium enterprises with the setup and running of Tours, as well as training of staff members. With each Tour offered normally operating with two local tour guides, tour managers, training staff, office staff and technical staff, Segway Tours have generated a large amount of job creation, in turn helping uplift the social economics in the area of the tour operation and creating a sustainable monthly income at low maintenance costs.
“The training we offer has enabled many people who live in disadvantaged areas and who started out as tour guides the opportunity to move on to higher positions and are now running our technical department at our Head Office,” says Cohen. “The more Segway Tours that are opened, the more training we can provide and the more we can create opportunities for South Africans.”
The tours are also attracting foreign investment as tourists and visitors specifically request Segway Tours when making bookings. “A lot of people are attracted to Segway Tours because they are fun but also because they are safe,” says Cohen. “The Segway is so user friendly that even if you’re in a problem situation you can just hop off without injuring yourself. During Segway Tours we start people off very slowly and govern the speed – building up their confidence. By the middle of the tour everyone is begging us to go faster! If you look at the safety record of Segway Tours in comparison to bike tours, cycle tours, quad tours, and so on, you can’t even compare.”
Imperial Green Mobility have plans to launch four more Segway Tours in the near future – a heritage tour of Soweto aptly called The Long Glide To Freedom that will take visitors past iconic sites including Nelson Mandela’s home, a Cape Town tour of the beachfront, V&A Waterfront, Green Point and Stadium, a scenic tour of Hermanus, an area famous for southern right whale watching, and a Sandton tour of the hub of Joburg Commerce.