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AAcross South Africa, women continue to play a critical role in the success and growth of key industries and sectors, and tourism is no exception. Here, a growing number of remarkable local women continue to make a valuable contribution to the rebound of the travel industry. From showcasing excellence in local accommodation offerings, to pioneering amazing experiences or contributing to more sustainable communities, we take a look at a few women who are doing great things.

Women of the Eastern Cape

HHester Fourie

EC Maritime and Aquaculture Development Corporation

A qualified category C Deep Sea Skipper, Hettie founded EC Maritime & Aquaculture Development Corporation and nature conservation after a seeing a gap in the market for female tour operators and/or guides. In partnership with two other female friends who share her love of the ocean, the company continues to break gender stereotypes by offering women-friendly deep sea chartering services. A force for change, she is passionate about helping other women and youth create income generating small businesses.


That special something that only women bring

Women are born with a sixth sense for detail and can multi-task and bring in that X-factor when it comes to ‘need anticipation’. This fact is confirmed by the fact that women have emerged as strong competitors in a male dominated industry. To date, the majority of B&Bs, guesthouses, small boutique hotels, travel agencies and tour operators are now mainly women managed and many have since become women-owned enterprises.

Advice for other women in the industry

Look around you and find that need and make it work as a business. Communicate with friends and family and share your ideas, listen carefully to what advice others can give you, research other businesses’ success stories, create your own ‘brand’ and never give up. ACT AND DO IT NOW!

SSemonia Bruiners

Guest Lodge on The Edge Pty Ltd

Before starting her own guest house, Semonia held positions as a guesthouse manager and had been in the hospitality industry for more than 11-years. A fluent German speaker, she understands and respects the need for further education to achieve one’s goals and passions. She is also a proud advocate for relationship building with an appreciation for complaints and challenges as they are vital for faster growth. Today, she is the proud owner of Guest Lodge on The Edge – an establishment that has been awarded 3 stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. It has also gone on to receive 10/10 reviews from and various other travel agents.


That special something that only women bring

Womens’ creative participation stands out more in the tourism workforce than in other sectors of the economy. This is because women are more likely to act on problems affecting their communities. They become hands-on leaders through the tourism businesses they own, run, and manage.

Advice for other women in the industry

Network by reaching out and connecting with other industry professionals. You will find many who are willing to share their advice and expertise with you.

ZZoliswa Samantha Mtinini

Kwanda Voluntourism

Zoliswa is a woman with an appreciation for community and giving back. Having learnt that the support from her local community and family makes it possible for her to follow her dreams, she supports local community projects that are run by women in her community. In her role at Kwanda Voluntourism, she facilitates the hosting of international exchange students, showcases Xhosa culture and heritage and places volunteers in communities where there is a high need so that they can share knowledge and transfer skills for the sustainability of community projects.


That special something that only women bring

In an industry that has been dominated by males for so many years, women are breaking barriers and stereotypes and bringing new levels of professionalism, enthusiasm innovation and creativity to the fore. They are also play an important role in assisting in creating opportunities for other women to succeed in the industry.

Advice for other women in the industry

Be a peoples’ person, be enthusiastic, have a passion for your culture and heritage, and a love for your country!

WWomen of Mpumalanga

CCarol Nake

Tinyiko Kruger Lodge

Through hard work, patience, good communication and determination, Carol has diligently worked her way up to where she is now. From her humble beginnings growing up in the rural areas as the oldest of a child headed household, she was determined to always be self-sufficient and give back to the community. Not only does she now get to do both, but she has the joy of meeting and engaging with guests from across Africa and mentoring others in the tourism industry enabling and encouraging them to succeed as she did.


That special something that only women bring

There is a vast increase in the number of women opting for a career in the travel industry. Our innate ability as women to nurture means we have a better understanding of what guests look for and need when travelling, allowing us to meet their every need and make them feel taken care of. Aside from the guests, the workforce in tourism is predominantly female, and so women in leadership positions have the ability as well as inner strength to serve as mentors and role models to continually uplift and encourage their staff to go further and grow.

Advice for other women in the industry

Never let yourself believe that you cannot do what you have set out to do. Set a goal and go out and achieve it or even exceed it! Tourism is a competitive industry, and you need to always be ready to face challenges. But it’s important to see these as learning opportunities and be ready to adapt, never allowing yourself to give up. It’s also important to have a good team behind you if you want to keep succeeding. While being a woman in tourism is not always easy, there are other women always available to assist and guide you.

CCharmaine Shirindzi

CTS Travel and Tours

Director of two companies CTS Travel and Tours and Nhlaphiwe Investments, Charmaine has always had a love for travel, having been exposed to it in her role as a former government employee. After resigning from her former employment and deciding to focus on her business full time, she knew she wanted to do something she loved, which was travelling. It was through this that CTS Travel and Tours was established in 2015, which after six years has grown to become a 10-bedroom guest house. She has subsequently also bought another two-hectare piece of land to be expanded to tented camps, 30 room hotel and 10 chalets. With patience, financial compliance and an appreciation for networking, Charmaine has used the programmes available to support her business growth.


That special something that only women bring

Women are called imbokodo because they have the brains, domestic skills, and attention to detail. It is time women brought those skills into the industry. Gender equality for sustainable tourism development is important and the role of women in tourism must be defined clearly because over the years women in the tourism industry have occupied fewer management roles. The industry has created more jobs, but it is up to women to stand up and start tapping into those opportunities. Fortunately, government has now taken women seriously by creating so many opportunities for woman to grow their businesses.

Advice for other women in the industry

Continue looking for opportunities that will help improve skills and capacity and set strategic (SMART) goals. Keep learning and networking and surround yourself with people that share the same vision and energy. Strive to be yourself, do what you love and arm yourself with confidence. You will always be faced with challenges but remember what made you start the business in the first place and be bold and courageous.

WWomen of KwaZulu-Natal

BBongiwe Mlangeni


Bongiwe is a woman passionate about helping others to help themselves and pay it forward. A woman who understands that giving without expecting any returns usually results in unexpected blessings too. Responsible for the overall strategic management of the Craft and Tourism pillars of Africa!Ignite, she has been working with Africa!Ignite for a number of years within different divisions and has learnt about tourism development, youth development, craft development and environmental education. Bongiwe makes a tangible impact on people’s lives and changes the narrative for many rural citizens through the tourism programmes run at the organisation. Not only do they promote the preservation of South African culture and heritage, but they also promote social cohesion and will be expanding into agro-processing to bring direct income to communities by using tourism as a vehicle for economic development.


That special something that only women bring

The active participation of women in the sector works towards greatly reducing gender inequality, and work that was previously only carried out by men is now offered to women as well. The fair inclusion of women in the industry helps highlight and tackle issues around women in leadership and entrepreneurship. Research has found that in general, women have a number of characteristics required to deliver a wide range of service tasks and have the required ‘soft skills’ to manage teams effectively. Women across our nation are the anchors of their communities and the custodians of culture and values – all of which can positively impact the tourism product offerings within a destination.

Advice for other women in the industry

Find and cultivate your passion and run with it. There are endless opportunities available out there and young people need to understand that starting small and at an entry-level is usually the best way to learn.

PPhetheni Mbonambi

Syavaya Corporate Travel

A woman who loves travel, interacting with different people, and engaging with and bringing a smile to every client, Pheteni is driven to succeed at all times. Having previously worked for a tourism business as a relationship manager, she gained a lot of experience whilst hosting clients, attending tourism workshops as well as training offered by South African Tourism. In 2017, she registered own business offering shuttle services, corporate transfers and group services to exciting travel destinations for those looking to have fun and explore their country.


That special something that only women bring

Women bring a lot of creativity and diversity to the sector. They are also able to multi-task and are very passionate when it comes to dealing with different kinds of clients in travel and tourism.

Advice for other women in the industry

You must be patient and realistic about what you want to achieve. Focus on your strengths and abilities and do what you love to do. This will help you to withstand difficult times. Learn to plan every project or job in advance. Be very firm but flexible with clients and treat your staff members as your own family because this is what will help sustain your business through challenging times.

PPhumzile Zama

Polkadotcoco (Pty) Ltd

Phumzile founded Polkadotcoco (Pty) Ltd in 2015 after working at an orphanage for nearly two years. At the orphanage she ran a mentorship programme for girls called Princess Diaries – a programme she still runs to this day with different girls from various areas. It was then that she realised the huge need to provide support to girls who weren’t coping well at school and whose chances of getting a higher education were quite slim. Polkadotcoco Pty Ltd was then born – from a need to ensure that when these precious princesses reach 18 years of age they will be able to fend for themselves. Polkadotcoco looks to hire a particular group of girls, empower and upskill them so they too can be successful and self-sufficient.


That special something that only women bring

Women in the creative and craft sector play a huge role in the South African tourism industry. They are instrumental in showcasing our beautiful country and getting tourists to explore and experience the best that Mzansi has to offer – from food, culture, safaris, communities and people to coastlines and activities. Women make every home warm and welcoming. And as crafters, we do just that for guests in our country. Because when one visits a country, they always take something back with them. We help keep the memories they make alive and ensure they stay with them for a very long time.

Advice for other women in the industry

What are you waiting for? Who are you waiting for?

Have a very clear vision and go for it. Do intense research. Ask around because people are always willing to help. Expect to get a hundred no’s before your first yes. It’s part of the process. Keep going because there is always someone watching you. There are so many opportunities out there, if you are hungry enough, you will find that piece of the pie. We need you, and we need your talent.

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