Women must unite to transform SA's tourism industry

2017-11-30 18:00 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - South Africa's first female Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa addressed more than 200 women from the African region at the Women in Tourism (WiT) Conference in Port Elizabeth, emphasising that women "must unite to work together".

She says this is required to influence government’s policies and programmes, and that collective, active participation "can result in a transformed and inclusive industry".  

The two-day conference, themed “Sustainable Tourism: A Tool for Radical Socio-Economic Development for Women", provides a platform to discuss challenges that affect the socio-economic empowerment of women, funding constraints, and the establishment of support structures and incentives for women in tourism.  

SEE: #WomensMonth: Tourism needs more women to take the lead

“We formally began our journey to elevate women in the tourism industry at our inaugural conference in 2014. Over the years, we have gained strides in establishing the WiT conference as a recognised platform that addresses the socio-economic concerns of women in our sector, and the continent,” says Xasa.

Here are the outcomes of this year's conference:  

  • The current Advisory Committee will work with the WiT Provincial Chapters to develop a constitution for the formation of an autonomous body that will drive women empowerment initiatives.  
  • The WiT Provincial Chapters will coach and mentor new entrants into the industry.
  • The Department of Tourism will facilitate public-private partnerships that will enable women in aspects of financial education and management.
  • Through the Tourism Incentive Programme, the department will assist women to gain access to domestic and international trade shows to market their products.

Women have a role to play in transforming the industry

At the National Tourism Transformation Summit that took place in October 2017, it was noted that the empowerment of women in the industry was lacking, and SA's Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des van Rooyen, said that "transformation in the tourism sector is painfully slow".

SEE: Tourism Transformation Summit 2017: 'Empowerment of women sorely lacking'

A study conducted by the Tourism BBBEE Council on the State of Tourism Transformation revealed that only 11% of enterprises had black women representation at boards, executives and senior management positions, and that the overall rate of transformation was slow.

Xasa says that women have a vital role to play in transforming the industry and growing tourism. "The empowerment of women, especially at decision-making and executive levels, needs to be accelerated, for them to make a meaningful contribution in the industry,” she says.


“Radical social and economic transformation has been prioritised to accelerate the process of empowering South Africans, especially women and the youth, to play a meaningful role in building a sustainable economy,” says Xasa.

“It is concerning that the representation of women at executive and senior management positions is low. Our collective participation is critical to transforming this sector. Rise up, and let us pro-actively strive to make this sector inclusive,” Xasa encourages women in the tourism industry.

ALSO SEE: SA's tourism minister appointed to key UN World Tourism seat

In an effort to elevate women in tourism, Minister Xasa launched the “30in5” campaign at Indaba 2017 to mobilise active transformation to attain the “30% target for women participation at executive level in tourism within the next five years”.

Check out how women are thriving in tourism in Cape Town and how the Department of Tourism aims to foster growth of women in the industry:


The conference also took place at the backdrop of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign under the theme: “Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward.”

Women and men in tourism supported the campaign by signing pledges and committing to enabling safer communities and an equitable tourism industry.

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