Makhosi Msimango, chairperson of the newly formed KwaZulu-Natal chapter of the Women in Tourism forum, is determined to expand the role women play in the local tourism industry, whether they own a business or want to climb the career ladder. Supplied
Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal chapter of the Women in Tourism forum launched in Durban on Friday seeks to empower women entrepreneurs and those working in the tourism sector through development and training.

KZN chapter chairperson Makhosi Msimango said when she opened her business, Ndzenga Tours and Safaris in 2012, she was surprised to find that she was the first black women-owned tour operator business in the province.

She said women were also still lagging behind in terms of obtaining management job opportunities in the tourism sector.

“Women have not had the opportunity to play a big part in the industry like being board members or owning their own product or tourism businesses. The Women in Tourism chapter plans to address issues of women in business, and women with careers in the tourism industry,” she said.

According to the Global Report on Women in Tourism, published by the UN World Tourism Organisation in 2010, women make up a large proportion of the formal tourism workforce, but are poorly represented at professional levels, earning 10 to 15% less than their male counterparts.

Msimango said the forum planned to collaborate with local and international businesses.

She has already approached the Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit to discuss a potential partnership between the organisations. Forbes Woman Africa announced last week that it would be hosting its summit in Durban in March.

Msimango said the chapter’s ideas to empower and provide women with sponsorship to train their small business staff to international standards, groom them for business leadership roles and attend international trade shows had been well received.

Msimango said the forum already had 50 signed up members ranging from women who own B&Bs and tour operators.

“I am excited about this new venture. This chapter also aims to highlight rural and township products. The trend is that tourists no longer want to book into hotels, because that is something they have done in the past and they can do it back home.

“They want an authentic experience, so we want to pull female rural and township product owners closer to ensure that they meet international standards, not only for their business to succeed and be sustainable, but also to offer tourists the service that they require at an international standard,” Msimango said.

She won the special MEC’s Award at the KZN Lilizela Tourism Awards held in September.

The Mercury