Top sectors for women entrepreneurs – Tourism

Written by Staff Writer

Jul 9, 2019

According to a StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force survey, women-owned enterprises are burgeoning in the tourism sector. “We’re seeing a growing number of entrepreneurs, a large proportion of them women, attracted to the industry – it is a vibrant and exciting field to work in”, says Laura Vercueil, PR and communications manager at Johannesburg Tourism Company.


Tourism accounts for about 9% of the overall GDP of South Africa and provides more than 1.5-million jobs. The industry attracts entrepreneurs because of the low barriers to entry and start-up costs.

Julie-May Ellingson


Head-hunted by the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), Ellingson joined the team in September 2014 as CEO, where she is currently heading up the centre’s expansion project. With over 20 years’ experience, she serves on the boards of Cape Town Tourism and the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC).

In her previous role as head of Durban’s strategic projects unit, Ellingson successfully transformed Durban’s International Convention Centre into a profitable business. She spearheaded the construction for the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Durban beachfront, which was done within budget and on time.

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold

Award-winning former CEO of Cape Town Tourism & founder of Destinate

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold was the CEO of Cape Town Tourism for approximately 10 years, and has 18 years’ practical experience in the tourism and marketing industry.

Under her leadership, Cape Town Tourism won a number of awards, including acclaim as a Destination Marketing Organisation, and was recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for its “world best-practice tourism organisational model and innovative initiatives in destination marketing”.

Today, Du Toit-Helmbold heads up Destinate – a specialised destination and marketing agency. She is regarded as an international destination marketing and tourism thought leader and is regularly invited to speak on topics such as responsible tourism, destination marketing, digital strategy and brand innovation.

Her passion lies with helping other companies and brands across the globe to pursue people-centred tourism by analysing market trends, tourism dynamics and consumer trends.

Book your spot in Top Women Leaders to appear alongside thought-provoking articles and pieces that promote gender parity? Get in touch with the Top Women team on 0860 009 590 or email to find out more.

This is the second instalment in a five-part series. We explored business support services in part one. Next week we will look at manufacturing.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the 13th edition of Top Women Leaders under the headline ‘Breaking Barriers’.

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