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Going Places – It’s an exciting time for tourism in South Africa

Written by Staff Writer

January 21, 2020

UN Women, in collaboration with United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Amadeus, recently released a report which indicated that across the private and public sectors, women are harnessing the potential of tourism to become financially independent – challenging stereotypes and starting their own businesses.

The report also shows that the majority of the tourism workforce worldwide is female; the sector thus of fers greater opportunities for women entrepreneurship than the wider economy, and tourism policies are increasingly addressing gender equality.

In Morocco, for example, women can now become licensed tour guides – a first for the country . The Hotel Owners’ Association in Uganda is led by Jean Byamugisha – its first female CEO. In the United Kingdom, an airline doubled its number of women pilots.

It is thus evident that society is making strides when it comes to the promotion of women in this sphere.

Policymakers in the public arena are also cognisant of the importance of promoting gender equality in tourism and measures are being put in place to ensure the female workforce too can reap the benefits of tourism.

Commenting on these achievements, Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary General, says, “Tourism is leading the charge for female empowerment all over the world.”

Adding to this, he notes: “UNWTO is firmly committed to working towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 – the empowerment of women and girls – and ensuring that tourism continues to be at the forefront of gender equality efforts.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN W omen Executive Director, echoes Pololikashvili when she says, “Gender equality in tourism must become the norm and not the exception. While the initial research results show that progress has been made, more work must be done to eliminate gender stereotypes and norms that hinder women’s full participation in tourism.”

The tourism sector in South Africa is booming, says Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, CEO of Jurni. “Increasingly , tourists worldwide are looking for undiscovered, unique and authentic tourism experiences. South Africa, as a destination, offers the perfect answer to this growing trend as the country has numerous ‘undiscovered’ experiences for travellers.”

Unfortunately, however, it is currently still challenging for overseas tour operators and travellers to find our country’s “hidden gems”. “It is time for us to highlight our unique experiences – experiences beyond the major tourist attractions. W e need to make it easier for the traveller, the tour operator and the travel agent to find what our country has to offer.”

To meet this need, the Department of Tourism launched Jurni – an innovative public–private venture that aims to revolutionise and transform South Africa’s travel and tourism industry. “As the first tourism data hub of its kind in South Africa, Jurni will equip businesses with valuable insights and accurate forecasts. We will also develop a booking tool and visitor portal that will showcase more tourism products to travellers,” Songelwa says.

Commenting on how she has seen women innovating in the tourism space, Songelwa says that innovation comes in many different forms and shapes. “There are numerous women (and men) who have innovated our tourism landscape through technology or innovative ideas on a very high level. However , almost more exciting to see is the women entrepreneurs in rural areas who are innovating in their region by using technology to market their small tourism establishments and putting these on the international map.” This, she notes, is the kind of innovation that leads to true transformation – not only for the tourism sector , but for our country as a whole.

Noting some trends to look out for in the next three to five years within the sector , Songelwa first relays the importance of authentic and unique experiences.

“Market research performed by McCrindle on behalf of Contiki Australasia, a travel company targeting youth travellers, reveals that 79% of Gen Z first travelled overseas before the age of 15. This generation is better travelled than ever before. As such, they crave authentic experiences in unique destinations, as they want to feel that they are the first among their peers to discover new experiences.” Secondly, she says, technology will offer a one-stop-shop for travel. “Young people have grown up in a connected and instantaneous environment. They are turning to technological solutions to offer them a one-stop-shop for their travels. They want to be able to read reviews, be inspired and book everything on the same platform.”

Lastly, data will help tourism SMMEs grow and find their space on the tourism map.

“There are a great number of quaint South African villages that have tremendous tourism potential, but seldom make it onto a first-time international visitor ’s itinerary.”

One of the main reasons for the lack of exposure of these different products and places, she notes, is that South Africa doesn’t have the right data mechanisms in place to equip tourism businesses with the information they need to develop their business strategies and reach new markets.

“As more reliable statistics and data become available in South Africa, through initiatives like Jurni, we’ll see more destinations and tourism products come to the fore as they will be able to design strategies to better market their products and offering to the world and increase their market share,” she concludes.


1. LEKKERWATER is a seven room eco-lodge that has recently opened in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Part of the Natural Selection portfolio, the lodge invites guests to enjoy an authentic beach and fynbos bush experience within a barefoot luxury setting. Perched on an enviable cliff location overlooking miles of beach, the secluded suites each have their own uninterrupted view over the dramatic sea-side location for whale and dolphin watching right from your bed. Guests are invited to unwind and delight in the experience with sundowners on the beach adding to the experience. “Arrive as fellow travellers, leave as friends” is the ethos of the lodge.

2. KRUGER SHALATI is a showcase of African design set to make a great impact in the global luxury market. The word ‘unique’ is often bandied about to describe experiences that may not necessarily be so, particularly when it comes to the design of luxury accommodation. Add to that the offer of a ‘unique African experience’, and questioning eyebrows may indeed rise. Those three words, however, really do represent the Kruger Shalati Train on a Bridge luxury accommodation experience in the national park of the same name. It’ s a concept that merges the venue’ s historic past with contemporary African design to create an once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list experience.

3. WILDEHONDEKLOOF PRIVATE GAME RESERVE is a 4 000-hectare farm with a luxury game lodge, situated 50km from sister lodge De Zeekoe Guest Farm and 40km from Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. The reserve offers nine luxurious bedrooms, all en-suite and air-conditioned, with stunning views of the mountain and river. Activities include guided game drives (see all types of buck species including wildebeest, nyala, eland, kudu and more).

4.PORT EDWARD’S RED DESERT is the world’ s smallest desert. It lies some 10km west of the town and is only 200m in diameter and 11 hectares in its entirety . Best described as a miniature version of the Arizona Desert, the man-high hills and valleys of naked red soil are a stark contrast to the surrounding lush and tropical vegetation. Archeological artefacts going back millions of years can be found and the locals are pleased this is now an internationally protected heritage site.

5. FAIRLAWNS BOUTIQUE HOTEL & SPA situated in Johannesburg offers the upmarket guest a delicate mix of luxury and convenience, whether the visit is for leisure or business. The stylish hotel, which has an air of eclectic sophistication, is considered a ‘home away from home’, where exceptional service

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