Making Her Mark: Elsje Erasmus

Last Updated March 20, 2018

She may be new to culinary tourism, but that doesn’t mean Elsje Erasmus isn’t already one to watch. She juggles a lot of hats at Cape Town Culinary Tours, but with a growing team and guests raving about her experiences, we couldn’t wait to share her story.

March is Women’s History Month, making it a perfect time to celebrate a few of our partners, including Elsje.

Elsje, you may be new to many of our partners so tell the community a bit more about yourself.

Well, I am a simple country girl. Myself and my siblings have been raised on a few different farms in South Africa, as we moved a lot for my father’s work. (We moved about 13 times when I was staying with my parents). We were fortunate enough to have stayed in some of the most beautiful places in South Africa (well for me), like Mosslebaai, George, Grootbrake, Heidelberg Gauteng, and I have some good family memories from the City of Nelspruit.

After school I went to live in Kuwait, where I worked as a flight attendant for the US/RSA army, flying corporate/ military staff in and out of war zones. Being only 19 years old, surrounded by adrenaline and hot army men, life could not get any better! It is here where I told myself that I wanted to travel the world.

DSC00509After a few months of learning about an exciting new culture and lifestyle, I got excepted to study Agriculture back home in South Africa. A BIG passion of mine. The farm life was burnt deep into my heart and runs still passionately through my veins. A couple of years after I went to join Emirates airlines, to pay off some bills and continue to see the world. By this point, I was hooked on the multicultural culinary world we live in.

While fortunate enough to have seen so many countries, Cape Town stole my heart and soul. All my travels and love for the multicultural/ multi-culinary world came together here. I am hoping to stay in the Mother City for as long as “she” will have me.

Like so many running a company, you are likely wearing many hats.  So what all do you take care of for Cape Town Culinary?
If you asked me this question a few months ago I would have had no idea what to say, I was all over the place… Tour Guide/Tour Director/partner/manager/advertisement/ social media manager/ PA/ PR/Admin/ the list goes on. But I am very fortunate to have a wonderful support team behind me, guiding me every step of the way. Don’t get me wrong, some days I am still all over the place, and I do think I am making my team grey.
I still act out each of these roles, but it feels like they are more in place. Each one of them now flows into a daily role and routine. I enjoy these roles more, as now I can also see the positive results of completing and structuring my work with my passion for the culinary tourism industry.

What drew you to culinary tourism?
Firstly, I had no idea what a “food tour” was before I started Cape Town Culinary Tours. I am embarrassed to say that the first food tour I went on was my own, and I wish in all my travels that I had been on more of them around the world. What a fantastic way to see a city and explore the culture alongside it’s culinary secrets. When I moved to Cape Town I wanted to go into the tourism industry but did not want to sit in an office or be cocooned within 4 walls. I wanted to show tourists and local travelers what Cape Town has to offer when it comes to the food, history and what goes on in and around the city today. At the time, my partner had just joined the team at EzTix, and a big light bulb went on in my head. I thought, “Why not combine everything I want to offer to guests into one, a FOOD TOUR!!!” Happy days, as a few months later Cape Town Culinary Tours was born.IMG-8298

Aside from the regular challenges any new business faces, Cape Town has a serious water crisis right now. What kind of planning are you doing to ensure a great guest experience? Can you even plan for something no major city has ever faced before?

The city of Cape Town and it’s people have done something remarkable these last few months, working and standing together through one of Cape Town and the Western Cape’s worst drought and water shortages ever. We have proven that if we all work together in making people aware of the water crisis and saving water together we can survive and overcome this drought.

On each tour we encourage guests to buy a bottle of water from the restaurants or vendors. A few of our stops use very few dishes and make use of disposable cutlery and dishes, helping save water by making fewer dishes to wash. I tell my guests that it is not necessary to flush a toilet every time you use it but instead “if it is yellow let it mellow if it is brown flush it down”. We make use of hand sanitizer instead of washing our hands and wasting liters of drinking water down the drain. There are so many ways to save water, people just need to be made aware of the seriousness of the situation. Cape Town has many projects on the way to further avoid day Zero (last day of water in Cape Town) in the Western Cape. But I do give a big “Well Done” to Cape Town, as we have come so far and we will overcome this together.

If there were any experience operator in the world you could sit and have a chat with, whose brain would you like to pick?
Wow, this is a tough one. I must say Nway Nway from One Bagan Tours in Bagan, Myanmar. I first heard of her and her tours through a friend. Now, they are not big and corporate just yet, and nothing has been handed to them on a silver platter, but she is working hard and long to grow in this vast and fast industry. I would give my big toe just to meet her and chat about the challenges that she has had to go through to grow and creating her company. We all face different situations in the tourism industry but I do feel in a world of poverty, sometimes without electricity (her last birthday), little support from the tourism world, and with little training she deserves a very big gold star for all her efforts. I’d love to ask how she stays motivated, what big plans she has next and how will she get there.  I’d also ask what advice she has for me as a growing tourism company, and how she overcomes giving up.

Actually, my biggest questions would be how do you handle all the admin (lol), and if I can go and be a guide for her. 🙂

There are days when I feel despondent, but then I just think of Nway Nway and I pull myself up and work harder and smile bigger.

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