Celebrating women in tourism

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Celebrating women in tourism

As the commemorations for women’s month  kicked off on August 1, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal will focus on looking at some of the dynamic women who are excelling in the tourism sector.

We honour these women who are striving for progress, ensuring women’s empowerment is realised and achieved.

According to Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010 (published by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), tourism’s contribution to employment is estimated to be 6% to 7% of the overall number of jobs worldwide (direct and indirect).

One in twelve of the world’s workers are employed in the travel and tourism industry. In developing countries where women have less access to education and often have greater household responsibilities, the low barriers to entry, flexible working hours, and part-time work present potential opportunities for employment.

Tourism in South Africa is a pillar of economic growth and within the industry women make up nearly 70% of the workforce. However, they are under-represented in senior positions.
Africa is doing well with women in tourism ministerial positions but the region does least well on women in tertiary teaching, women service graduates, and getting women into business leadership positions.

A 2016 report by Statistics South Africa revealed that tourism employs more workers than mining.
The report also stated that some 700 000 South Africans are employed in tourism, with every 1 in 22 employed citizens working in this sector.

We at TKZN have implemented the Enterprise Development and Incubation Program attempting to make significant changes to the status quo, improving the representation of women in the tourism sector, and building and strengthening their capacity.

Women are an integral feature of the program. The focus of the program is to help women, among other SMMEs and their establishments get off the ground. We aim to contribute towards helping to transform the province’s tourism sector.

In the next few weeks, through the voice and actions of tourism leaders, we hear about their strengths, their challenges and their actions in building the tourism sector and helping others perform at their best.



profile of Phindile Makwakwa

Leading with confidence


Leading from the front and making sure KwaZulu-Natal remains the most preferred tourism destination is on top of Phindile Makwakwa’s agenda, acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

Hailed as one of the leading personalities in tourism, Makwakwa is passionate about ensuring that during her tenure new entrants in the tourism field are given the support and guidance needed to make their mark.

She has championed the issue of gender transformation in the industry.

Before taking up her current position Makwakwa held several other prominent roles in government which gave her the insight required for her current role.
This was in the Department of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Office of the Premier, KwaZulu-Natal among the many leadership roles she has held.

Makwakwa says she wants to ensure that TKZN helps to unlock women’s potential and change their lives as this would have a knock- on effect on their families and communities.

Makwakwa believes that the rate of transformation in the tourism industry must accelerate to allow for more mainstream black-owned businesses of all sizes to be established.

Before joining TKZN, Makwakwa cut her teeth in tourism promotion matched with environmental management and held the positions of Director: Media Liaison and Director: Communications in the Ministry and Department of Tourism & Environmental Affairs respectively.

Makwakwa started her career as a journalist with the Mercury newspaper in 1997.

She was the Head of Secretariat: KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Council, a position she took up following her successful project management of the Provincial COP 17 Programme for the KwaZulu-Natal Government in 2011.

In this position she was responsible for the overall project management and monitoring of the Province’s 2010 World Cup Programme. She set up the 2010 Coordination Office in 2007.

She co-chaired the Provincial 2010 Technical Committee.
Mkwakwa was also the General Manager: Communications & Public Relations at Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.


profile of Sonto Mayise


TKZN continues to profile the dynamic women in tourism. We caught up with Sonto Mayise who is now the acting chief of the Convention Bureau.

There is a new person at the helm of ensuring that KwaZulu-Natal remains one of the most sought after travel and conference destinations in the world. She is dynamic, a strategic thinker and full of energy to place KZN on the global map.

Sonto Mayise has been appointed Acting Chief Convention Bureau head following the recent departure of veteran tourism fundi, James Seymour from Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN).

The highly accomplished Mayise says she is determined to ensure that KZN and Durban in particular remains a priority destination for business tourism. She describes her role as one in which “you mainly create relationships.”

The Bureau is a partnership initiative of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and the Ethekwini Municipality to promote the meeting or business tourism services of KZN and the metropolitan area of Durban.

Mayise says in terms of the number of conferences hosted, Durban and the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre remain the busiest venues in the country with strong competition coming from Cape Town.

Since its inception in 2010, the Bureau has attracted more than 30 conferences whose economic impact is more than R1 billion.
Mayise believes that in terms of attracting big events the priority should be on getting business from the rest of Africa. Currently Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia are key competitors for KZN.

“It’s quite interesting and healthy competition. If you go to Kigali and you see what they are doing it’s quite amazing.”
One would never think that Rwanda can now boast tourism after having a genocide which left millions dead.

Mayise said: “Something remarkable has now happened. Rwanda has flourished. There is a new-found mind set to build the country.”

“As a Province we have endured many changes over the decades. We can learn from this. Placing KZN as a viable tourism offering is critical. This we do having the tourist as the well the businessman in mind.
“We have to meet the actual need or needs of different kinds of visitors. This is often achieved by a clear positioning statement or brand message and by creating a destination that offers all of it,” said Mayise.

Mayise who has been in the industry for several years said she had initially enrolled for a commerce degree at university because she wanted to be an accountant.

However, during an information session at the University of Zululand and with the encouragement and guidance of Professor Thandi Nzama she ended up switching to tourism which she passed with distinction and eventually even received a scholarship to do a Master’s degree overseas.

She says it was through the encouragement of a woman that she was able to achieve the many things she has to date.

“There are many more opportunities in the industry today and as women we must beak the barriers and support each other.”
She says part of her role in the Bureau was to get more young people into business tourism.

One of the programmes they have launched is with the International Association of Professional Conference Organisers in which 40 young people will be trained and certified as Professional Conference organisers in a programme which will be held at the ICC later this year.

It will consist of two weeks of training and then participants will have a few months to gather a portfolio of evidence of the work they have done before they receive their qualifications.
Mayise said entry to the programme was free and TKZN was hoping to do it on an on-going basis depending on the available funding. “It’s about breaking barriers and bringing new people into the conference tourism space” she said.

Mayise who was recently awarded the Premier’s Discretionary Award at the Premier’s Service Excellence Awards said the industry still needed to undergo a lot of transformation but that TKZN had several initiatives underway to support entrepreneurs.

“Currently if you speak about transformation you are met with a lot of resistance. It is still white dominated and there is a limited number of women involved.”

She said the lack of women involved in business tourism could be attributed to their lack of knowledge or the amount of barriers they faced trying to get a foothold into the industry.

“Other than capital it’s us who are working for government…we need to transfer skills and mentor the youth.”
Mayise was recently also nominated for the Top 40 Women in MICE to be held on the 23rd of August in JHB.


Profile of Yoliswa Gumede

The woman behind the strawberries

Strong willed, dynamic and a go getter is how best to describe Yoliswa Gumede, the co-owner and marketing director of Cappeny Estate, famous for strawberries in the Ballito, North Coast area.

Gumede, 44, is the wife of Xolani Gumede. The husband and wife team, originally from Gauteng, moved to KZN nearly a decade ago to run one of the few black-owned commercial strawberry farms, Cappeny Estate, in South Africa.

Today, the farm is an integral feature of the tourism offerings in KZN. Gumede is flourishing in the tourism sector as a woman, and a farmer and a leader helping others to break into harvesting strawberries.

We caught up with Gumede who is currently preparing for the Ballito Strawberry Festival which takes place on August 11th at Cappenye Estate. Visitors will have the opportunity indulge in the experience of picking their own strawberries.

The festival will bring together a culmination of captivating and experiential festivity, food, drinks, activities and entertainment.

The Estate is KZN’s newest and most popular hydroponic commercial strawberry farm. It is a family owned business which broke ground in 2013. After the couple had purchased the land, they researched the different varieties of strawberries that can be grown under various conditions and regions.

With the support of Trade & Investment KZN, the couple were able to fund trips to Kenyan rose fields and overseas strawberry fields, to explore which variety of the fruit would grown in the KZN North coast area.

Gumede is no stranger to new innovations.
Gumede is planning to diversify into processing strawberries to produce products such as jam for the hospitality industry and retail sector. They also exploring opportunities in the export market.

The 17- hectare farm was built entirely from scratch by the Gumede family. The farm has distributed its strawberries to retail suppliers such as Woolworths, Checkers and Shoprite, Food Lovers Market, and other major retailers.

“We are continuously refining our systems to make sure we deliver consistently high-quality strawberries and to find creative solutions to mitigate against challenges such as drought or water quality.”

The couple defied all odds and broke boundaries as they did what was believed to be the impossible.

The North Coast is known for growing sugar cane, and growing strawberries there is a new phenomenon.

“Strawberry farming is not an easy market. The strawberry market is also not a big one. It’s a very small market, purely because strawberries are not a very common crop but are in high demand, locally and globally.”

The Estate harvests six months of the year, from June to December.

Gumede added strawberry farming has a huge element of agri-tourism and fruit picking, as it plays a role in educating communities about where food comes from, how to take care of the land and respect the environment.

With Xolani, her husband, the two have a synergy in running the business.

“We have complimentary skills. I focus on running the from operations to staff management, to sales and dealing with customers.

“Xolani’s role has a more a long-term focus looking at investors and long-term plans for the farm.”

The Gumede’s are a suburban couple and found farming somewhat of a challenge at first.

“Farming is not something that you do today and get results literally the next day. It’s season by season. Whatever you do today impacts the next season. And the results may only be seen or changed in the coming season. So, if you make mistakes in this season, you only have the next season to correct them.”

Farming is also a male dominated sector.

“I had to manage males that come from families and environments where women are not given high regard. They are subordinate to men. I had to break through those barriers.”
Sharing some encouragement to aspiring farmers she encouraged women to be “bold, break barriers, and be creative”.

Gumede said: “Until something is tried and then is does not work, it cannot be written off. You have to try something and then if you fail you know you have tried.”


Profile of Marian Evans

The Midlands Meander evolving with the times
Today we meet Marian Evans, tourism connoisseur and manager of the Midlands Meander, regarded as the pulse of the area.
She is our Thursday shout out during Women’s Month.
Evans is giving the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands a twist from the meander it is usually known by. In a few months the Midlands Meander Association (MMA) will launch a new annual guide which will contain a few technological advancements.
The guide will include Quick Response (QR) codes which will be linked directly to google maps on the midlands meander website.
Evans said this was part of the bold steps the association was going to take to make the route more desirable to city slickers and international tourists.
“Our new website will be linked to Google maps and what the QR codes will do is provide information to travellers on their smartphones. It will allow travellers to download the app and scan the code and all the information they need to know.
“So, finding your favourite leather bags, shoes, arts and crafts, accommodation will be just a click away. The meander is moving with the times,” said Evans.
Evans said many travellers wanted to trade the city life for a great escape to the Midlands. The area offers them that which has cosy accommodation places, rustic shops and arty craft places.
Evans has been involved in the tourism sector for over 30 years and has been part of the MMA for three years. She has a taste for knowing the best thing in the midlands and expert in arts in the area.
She said: “Tourism is one of the most viable and changeable sectors on a continual basis. It has been very exciting for me to watch all the changes over the years and they all have been for the better.”
The Midlands not only offers a life lived at a gentler pace but it is popularly known as a tourist destination that provides jobs for thousands of women in the tourism sector.
“The Midlands is a countryside destination providing jobs to thousands of women. Every job provided in tourism industry benefits up to 12 people. Tourists either local or international spend their money in the region for example accommodation, adventure, services and goods.
“Locals earn a salary or make a profit then spend that money on transport, education, food, clothing etc and the whole community benefits.
“The N3 Toll Concession Project – an initiative to reach out to communities in the area, – funds an emerging artist/crafter project which this year alone will impact eight rural ladies extending from Middlerus to Mpophomeni and their products will be on sale when the gallery opens,” said Evans.
“The fact that British Airways have introduced a direct flight from Heathrow to Durban from the end of October this year, has opened a door to visitors from the UK straight to KZN and this must be capitalized on by everyone in the tourism industry,” she added.
The Midlands also consists of five self-drive routes with each route offering a different variety of things to do and see. The route also offers a cultural experience as travelers can visit the current commission of the Impumolelo beaders – a huge wall hanging for the new museum at the Capture Site is being painstakingly threaded in beads by eight ladies from the Lidgetton area.
Visitors can also be offered a guided tour to experience the Zulu- Mpophomeni Tourism Experience. The tour enlightens one to the history and culture of the Zulu people of the area and of course Capture Site is part of everyone’s bucket list.
Evans said: “We work at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. The site is an exciting place to work at because we see tourists come in numbers most of the time.”
Before taking on a career in the tourism sector Evans was in advertising and marketing.
Evans also runs a holiday resort, Medolino Caravan Park, and is situated in Port Alfred, near Kowie River. This was her late husband’s dream. 

Profile of Debashine Thangavelo

We continue to profile the women who play a leading role in tourism. We sat down with Debashine Thangevelo, group travel editor for Independent Media.

When people think of travel writers they fantasise of them being sent round the world on an assignment with a huge commission, all expenses paid, and having endless days lolling on the beach or people-watching in cafes.

Thangevelo in a Q and A session made us understand that travel and tourism journalists need to understand how to dig out facts – and how to find hidden gems and insider info. Travel and tourism journalists have more responsibility, for instance to promote places never heard of and the communities that live there

From an entertainment reporter in Durban to now being the Travel Editor for publications such as the Sunday Life magazine, as well as the Verve pages in The Star and Pretoria News, Thangevelo’s life has been a journey.

She started on Daily News’ Tonight. Moving into travel, she shared a saying that encapsulates her: “Travelling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

She answered a few questions from Tourism KZN

1.What lured you to the world of travel?

Growing up in an Indian community, there is a pervading stereotype where females are concerned. You grow up, get married and have a family. As a kid, I always wanted to travel, exploring new places – seeing the world. In a sense, that made my goals different. But I’ve never been one to follow the norms. And, in so doing, I grew up to fulfil my vision in more ways that I envisioned.

2.What sets KZN apart from other provinces?

I’m a proudly Durban gal, there’s no denying that! That said, I think each province has something beautiful and different to offer. As someone who is most au fait with the offerings of KZN, I will start off with our beautiful beaches. The warm subtropical climate makes it the perfect destination to visit all year round. The melting pot of cultures contributes to wonderful cuisines on offer. A must-try is the bunny chow, obviously. The rickshaw rides is another must. Of course, for those that don’t mind the drive, there is much beauty to explore in the Midlands. It’s also a city steeped in many histories, where you can tour the battlefields or simply enjoy the breathtaking views. I might be deemed a little bias here, but the warm Durban hospitality is always a winner with tourist.

3.Being a travel editor isn’t all about reporting on what you hear but it also requires you to have enjoyable experiences through more meaningful connections with local people and exposing yourself to the area, how has that influenced your reporting?

Travel isn’t something you explore from a linear perspective. There are so many different components that one needs to take into account. My responsibility isn’t to simply review beautiful places – it is also to ensure the needs of travelers are met. To that end, we need to be inclusive of the different types of traveler out there. They vary from young backpackers, adrenalin junkies, cultural explorers to the more seasoned and affluent traveler. Each of them has a different need in the information they consume and digest. Travel tips are always crucial.

4.What is the most outstanding feature you look for when you are writing about tourism?

One of the first things we are trained to do is to research ahead of writing. This vital tool empowers you to better understand your subject and, as such, write from a more informed perspective. For me, I always research any place I’m visiting. I want to know what the place is popular for. Food is an integral part of who I am – given my Indian lineage – and I like knowing where the hotspots are. What cuisine is native to the place I’m visiting. I look into the history of the place, the arts and cultural elements associated with it.

5.How can media play a more meaningful role in destination marketing?

We take the traveler to different places, through our experience. In reading about a certain destination, they are privy to what can be expected. And, I’ve found, they are easily swayed by visual stimulation, too.

6.What other ways can the media make tourism seem attractive for people to read about places and know their tourism destinations?

Travelling shouldn’t be an unattainable goal. Something that people simply read about. Aside from sharing an experience or writing about destinations, the media can do giveaways and partner with different tourism sectors to give people an opportunity to experience travel themselves. Incentivising people creates an awareness and that can only trigger a boom in the sector. Again, this is a domino effect, which works when partnerships are forged.

7.How are women fairing in the tourism sector?

I had the great privilege of meeting Tokozile Xasa, the former Minister of Tourism in SA, at the World Travel Market in London last year. In getting to chat with her, I found out about the numerous initiatives she put in place to empower women in tourism. We are talking about startup companies at a grassroots level evolving to fully-fledged businesses. She ensured people were given the knowledge to grow and share their craft with the community. Leaders and visionaries like her are what’s needed to take this sector to the next level, where sustainability will lead to much more growth.

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