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Gone too soon: A tribute to Michael Mabaso

Posted on: Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Blog Category: General

 

Swaziland's tight knit tourist industry was left devastated recently by the premature passing of one of its leading lights - tour guide Michael Mabaso. The Swaziland Tourism Authority's Marketing Manager Bongani Dlamini expresses the feelings fittingly in the following heart-felt tribute:

The bowels of earth opened up last weekend to receive a great luminary in the local tourism and travel industry, Michael Mabaso, whose untimely demise took us all by surprise.

I was utterly shocked by the news of Mabaso’s passing on, as he had come to be more than just a colleague in the tourism sector but a friend, and indeed a brother.  Mabaso met his death following a short illness. Allow me, dear reader, to deviate from our usual style, and instead pay tribute to this gallant son of the soil, whose memory will always linger in our minds.

Mabaso was a refined tour guide, whose progression in the industry saw him becoming a tour operator of note.

He founded his own company called Etinyatsi Tours & Safaris in 2009, having worked for the Swaziland National Trust Commission (SNTC) and Swazi Trails in the years 2001 and 2002, respectively.

He received his formal tour guiding training in South Africa, in 1999, under Guide Wise.  His training was facilitated by Foresters Arms Hotel Director Ruth Buck. Buck introduced Mabaso to Gerson Travel, a Swiss international tour operator, who became his first ever client.

I personally first met and worked with Mabaso in 2001 at SNTC, where I mentored him for a year. He had great passion for tourism and culture, and it was not surprising, therefore, that he was to become one of the greatest tour guides Swaziland has ever had.

In 2002, Mabaso went to Bermuda, a British Island in the North Atlantic Ocean,  a trip that changed and enhanced his perception about the tourism business.

When he came back, he worked for a couple of tour operators as a tour guide before establishing his own tour company in 2009. Quite often, the indigenous Swazi does not participate in the tourism industry to the level of ownership, but Mabaso defied all odds and became a master of his destiny. The knowledge he had accumulated over the years, coupled with his formal education, saw him become one of the most sought after guides in the country for group and individual tours.

Awards

Deservedly, Mabaso became the first winner of the ‘Best Tour Guide of the Year’ last year (2016) in the inaugural Tekuvakasha Tourism Awards. I vividly recall the remarks he made soon after receiving that award – he reiterated the need for continual training of practising and prospective tour guides in order to keep abreast with world best practices. The Swaziland Tourism Authority (STA) has, in the past, conducted tour guiding training for local guides, with facilitation done by the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), and more recently the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Swaziland (HOTAS).

Among many traits and skills that tour guides should possess, Mabaso had exceptional people skills. His ability to interact with people from different backgrounds was enviable.  He was very enthusiastic and ever friendly. His product knowledge was exemplary, and thousands of tourists who were guided by him spoke very highly and fondly of him. Indeed, he was a true ambassador of our tourism, history, and culture.

To his family, friends, and colleagues in the industry, my heart is heavy with sympathy over our collective loss. No words can adequately describe how sorry I am for this loss. He shall always be remembered as a man with a great heart and who himself was larger than life in the industry. May his soul rest in God’s peace eternally.

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