Women comprise 70% of South Africa’s tourism workforce and have been the worst affected by the Covid-19 shutdown that has left the tourism sector reeling since even before the lockdown was announced.
As the weeks rolled on, a PR & communications collective, headed by women in South Africa’s tourism and hospitality space, led the call for South Africa to open its international borders under the banner ‘South Africa is Travel Ready’. For each day of August, the collective featured the story of one #IAmTourism woman giving a voice to the women in tourism whose voices were lost during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The campaign is unique in that it has given a face (and a voice) to the entire industry: inbound or outbound, urban or rural, young and old. Both experienced veterans and young guns have lent their support, including BARSA’s Zuks Ramasia and travel start-up founder, Phakamile Hlazo.
Zuks Ramasia – Ready To Return To The Sky
The vibrant, inspiring and utterly wonderful Zuks Ramasia first fell in love with aviation as a child on the dusty streets of Vosloorus, just south of Boksburg. She would look up at the sky as aeroplanes flew overhead and say to her young self, “I am going to be up there one day!”
After 28 years in aviation with SAA, this “tourism child” as she describes herself, is now the CEO of the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA). Zuks joined BARSA in May, in the eye of Covid’s storm – and is now 100% focused on returning aircraft to the sky.
Importantly, Zuks believes that the aviation sector, in terms of bio-security, is more than ready: “The protocols we have in place, are not just for domestic travel, because the exposure is the same, whether you are travelling for VFR (visiting friends and relatives) or leisure – the protocols are meant for everybody. Rest assured, our protocols from end to end, say only one thing: if you accept one customer, another customer is equally safe.”
Phakamile Hlazo – Empowering Small Business Owners
Phakamile agrees. Her exciting start-up, Zulu Nomad, has worked hard during lockdown to empower small tourism business owners – offering free online courses to develop their skills, hone their operations, and ensure they are post-Covid travel-ready.
“Unfortunately, as a start-up ourselves, there was little we could do in terms of finances and funding people, but we knew we could impart knowledge and skills. Our area of expertise is digital innovation and digital transformation; it’s technology.”
Zulu Nomad’s courses cover best practice, examining case studies from around the world – as well the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s health and safety protocols. “It’s a magnificent resource,” says Phakamile, “We’ve already had 80 business owners take this free course.”
Both Zuks and Phakamile are passionate about women’s roles in the industry, be it technology, aviation, hospitality, events or excursions. Despite challenging times ahead, they are excited about the potential within SA’s tourism sector.
Zuks uses an ‘elevator’ analogy, saying that if you’re headed to the top, you climb into the lift with other women, adding with characteristic warmth and humour: “Don’t just aim to be the first. It’s cold up there – bring other women with.”
Read Zuks Ramasia and Phakamile Hlazo’s inspiring stories, among others, at https://traveltosouthafrica.org/woman-in-tourism/