Meet Natalie Tenzer-Silva, the powerhouse behind Maputo’s esteemed Dana Tours brand. Over the past two-plus decades, Natalie and her team have played a leading role in revolutionising the Mozambican tourism industry by providing sun-seeking leisure and corporate travellers with custom holiday packages and services. These packages and services are expertly tweaked and tailored to suit each traveller’s individual requirements, requests and budget.
Surviving the pandemic
As is the case for all countries around the globe, Mozambique is currently undergoing a tourism overhaul in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Natalie is determined to embrace and accelerate the necessary changes through Dana Tours. She speaks openly about the massive toll that the pandemic took on her business and the greater tourism industry but explains how she believes positive growth will come from the hardships experienced in the long run.
“Our business came close to collapse but every day through the pandemic I went to the office to prove that I didn’t give up hope. Working with a skeleton staff complement, I wanted to be there each day to support those who came to work,” Natalie says.
“The pandemic showed me how, as a team, we could think outside of the box, and adapt through an almost complete travel blackout period,” she adds.
Going forward, the focus worldwide is very much on re-thinking tourism and Natalie is of the view that travel suppliers should be turning their attention to figuring out how to provide travellers with experiences that locals might take for granted, as well as how to create new adventures within a destination’s unique environment.
Leadership and championing a team
Born in South Africa, Natalie immigrated to Mozambique in the early 1990s. Mingling with the locals, she quickly learned Portuguese and entered the tourism industry in 1994 where she immediately put her natural leadership skills to good use. Natalie managed a large travel agency, called Dana Agency, then founded what was to become Mozambique’s largest inbound tour operator, Dana Tours. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.
Since opening Dana Tours in 2002, Natalie has invested 20 years into its transformation, leading her staff along the way to building experiences around the country’s essence and utilising her team’s unrivalled knowledge regarding its very best bits whether in the city, on safari or at the beach.
For Natalie, leadership is about championing a team as a whole, but also putting energy into developing and supporting each individual member of the team.
“Every single team member has their own personal and professional goals in terms of growth and improvement. I’m very serious about creating an environment where people feel safe to express their ideas, where they feel protected and appreciated. It’s important to provide my employees with a sense of job security and to define parameters within which they can work together as a unit,” she explains.
As far as leadership is concerned, Natalie believes that a good leader has trust in their team. A good leader doesn’t simply dictate. Instead, they listen to their team members, encourage them to give their own outlook on the future of the business and gently guide them in the right direction when necessary.
“Each of my employees learns through experience when dealing with clients. I encourage my staff to give me their outlook on how we should handle certain situations, and most times I don’t need to correct anything!”
The post-pandemic travel landscape in Mozambique
In a post-pandemic landscape, there is only one constant, and this is the case regardless of the destination: travel is going to, and already does, look very different compared to how it looked in 2019. Natalie shares some insights:
“Post-COVID, we’ve seen a dramatic up-take in enquiries and a lot more “last-minute” bookings. After a long time spent confined to their homes and having their movement restricted, people are so eager to take those once-in-a-lifetime trips. While much of the interest is for 2023, we’ve seen a significantly higher number of bookings with a 3-week lead time in 2022.”
Natalie is hopeful that the increased interest in a beach or safari holiday in Mozambique will continue its upward trend, highlighting just how friendly and welcoming Mozambicans are when it comes to their international visitors.
“The locals are warm and welcoming, and proud to show travellers their beautiful culture, safari parks and beaches,” she says.
“There are many reasons travellers should be setting their sights on a trip to Mozambique in the near future, especially if a quiet and secluded escape is on the cards. After all, there are no mass tourism establishments, there’s an endless supply of wide, open spaces and countless once-in-a-lifetime experiences on offer.”
Inspired to embrace change
Inspired by her team and her industry’s resilience, Natalie tells of how she and her staff at Dana Tours are ready to embrace the inevitable changes over the course of the next few years.
“Resilience inspires me. The fact that my staff, many with young families, could tighten their belts and ride this through is incredible. They’re the reason I love my job and my role as a leader. Walking into the office and hearing laughter and music and bumping into colleagues in the corridors puts a smile on my face,” comments Natalie.
When asked what advice she would impart to a new leader, Natalie insists that success in a position of leadership revolves around fully investing in one’s team and its growth.
“Guide your team to work as a unit, invest in them and always strive to be honest and transparent in all dealings. You’re all working towards one goal – mutual trust is key,” she concludes.
The future is bright for tourism in Mozambique and there’s no doubt that Dana Tours will be paving the way for its development, keeping the traveller experience at the forefront of every booking and letting the team’s passion for the country and its marvellous beauty shine through in all of its offerings.