Q&A with #WomeninTourism

As a Women’s Month exercise, we brainstormed the women in Cape Town working in responsible tourism businesses who could be a role model for other #WomeninTourism. The list grew big quickly, and we realised just how much responsible tourism in Cape Town has been shaped by women. It dawned on us that women in responsible tourism in Cape Town are not only role models for other women, but are role models for the industry as a whole. 

It seems that behind most responsible tourism businesses is a woman, or a team of women, influencing responsible tourism. If they’re not making executive decisions, they’re influencing them or doing the work. In many instances women have taken the lead and are at the helm of showcase responsible tourism businesses. We invited these champions of responsible tourism to share their thoughts on working in tourism. The responses we got is both inspiring and has given us food for thought. Our #WomeninTourism featured in this piece are:  

These women work in businesses that have solid responsible tourism credentials. They are: 

The Backpack

The Backpack features often in our blog posts and for good reason – when it comes to responsible tourism we’re beginning to think that there’s nothing this business hasn’t tried. The Backpack is certified by Fair Trade in Tourism and is the winner of several international responsible tourism awards for both their environmental social initiatives. In a way, Toni and Lee have been leaders of responsible tourism in South Africa, and have been particularly good at proving that small tourism businesses can operate responsibly and thrive.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

In addition to being South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions and providing visitors with a world-class experience, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (MAC), takes its role as custodian of Table Mountain and beacon for social and economic responsibility very seriously. It’s certified carbon neutral, and being in a national park, focuses on reducing its impact on the environment. But contributing the local economy is also a priority, and TMAC does this through employment and supporting local communities and suppliers. We particularly appreciate how much of the managment team are women. 

Influence Tours

Influence Tours may be a young business, but it was designed to positively impact lives in townships and has already done so. All components of their tours have been vetted against sustainability criteria such as local employment, local sourcing, environmentally sound operations etc. Their main goal is to provide long-term funding for local charity initiatives, and donate 100% of profits to charity. The proceeds of its Cape Town Roots of Africa township tour are donated to Township Roots, an NPO that works in Nyanga and Phillipi. 

What do our champions find exciting about working in tourism

Our champions of responsible tourism are not the kind of people who let the grass grow under their feet. They’re working in tourism because it’s dynamic and challenges them to keep up with the changes. 

They’re also people who care for the wider community, and appreciate working in an industry brings about positive change. Depending on what our champions do, they see this change happening in different ways:

  • HR managers see change happening through  job creation, skills development and better chances for career growth
  • Retail managers see change happening by supporting small and women-owned business
  • Tour  guides see change happening when tourists venture into townships and rural areas in the search for authentic tourism experiences

Advice for young #WomeninTourism

Our champions are quite frank in admitting that working in tourism is challenging. It’s hard work and requires a commitment to working outside of business hours. People in tourism often find themselves filling more than one, if not all, functions so versatility and a good knowledge base is important. Our champions are drawn to tourism because it’s dynamic, but then you need to be flexible and creative to adapt to change. 

What also attracts our champions to tourism is that it is an industry that welcomes different and interesting personalities, and instead of hiding your authenticity, show it. It also requires a personal strength to cope when things will go wrong but also to stay motivated to make changes when they are needed. 

What do our inspirational #WomeninTourism say

What excites you about being part of the tourism sector?

Its dynamic, always changing and a great community to belong to. There are so many positive changes happening in this sector and its one area we can grow jobs as a country. Because of the recycling we do here, we’ve helped create jobs at the recycling depot where our stuff gets sent and we’re helping to save the planet at the same time. Win-win!
Lee Harris – Owner of The Backpack

Tourism is an industry that can bring real and long-term positive change to communities across South Africa. Tourists today want a real experience, and this often involves meeting people. This means that we can bring business to townships and rural areas that create a win-win situation: an authentic experience for the tourists, and a possibility for economic development for the hosts.
Katarina Mancama – Head Guide & Product Manager at Influence Tours

Through responsible tourism strategies, I am able to take others on the journey with me by supporting small business and woman in business.  It not only excites me, it is a blessing. 
Rianda Williams , Retail Manager at Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

What excites me most about the tourism industry is the room for growth. For individuals who enter the sector at entry level and turn it into a career move. I’ve seen female employees join the Cableway as seasonal entry level recruits, and through furthering their studies, move on to become: an assistant accountant, a HR manager, a marketing assistant, an event planner, a ticket office manager to mention but a few.
Selma Hercules, Finance Manager at Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

The tourism industry is an ever-changing and exciting industry. To be a woman on the frontier of this thrilling sector is a huge honour and one I look forward to exploring for years to come. 
Collette van Aswegen, Marketing Manager at Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

What excites me is having the opportunity to be part of  contributing to society in a meaningful way  through the employment of over a hundred unemployed seasonal staff each year, teaching them transferrable skills and setting them up for future employment. 
Tasneem Rajie – HR Manager at Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

What has been your biggest “wow” moment or achievement?

Doing our community work it has been so personally rewarding.
Lee Harris – Owner of The Backpack


Seeing a young woman blossoming to her fullest potential is a great motivating factor to try and do more. We have now seen the start and almost conclusion of the development from a young skipper who was part of our first intake finish school and is now in her final year of Human Resource and more girls following their dreams close behind. 
Toni Shina – Owner of The Backpack

There are so many. But the ones that particularly warm my heart are the meetings with women entrepreneurs that engage with the tourism industry. It may be a sangoma inviting visitors to understand her trade better, or a mama and her daughters cooking a traditional meal to offer tourists and many other things. What they all have in common is the warm welcome that they extend to every visitor, and a firm commitment to using the additional income to better the future of their children (often by supporting their education). South African women are like mothers to every person that they meet!
Katarina Mancama – Product Manager at Influence Tours

Which women in the tourism industry have been your role models? And why? 

Caney Newman who started and overland company Which Way Adventures (not easy for a woman especially in the late 80’s) and has gone to be one of our foremost marketers in our sector of adventure tourism. She is caring and sharing and has been a great mentor to us and to our industry as a whole.
Toni Shina – Owner of The Backpack

What advice do you have for young women working or thing of entering the tourism sector. 

To thrive in any industry, but particularly the tourism sector , women should embrace their authenticity, forgive themselves and be resolute about being the change they want to champion. Upwards and onwards.  
Wahida Parker, Managing Director at Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

Working in tourism is not a holiday. You need work very hard (often long hours when most other people are off), and you need to be versatile and understand everything from customer service to finance and logistics. Think creatively: the face of tourism is changing almost as fast as the technology sector, so we can’t afford to be stuck in old and rigid patterns. 
Katarina Mancama – Head Guide & Product Manager at Influence Tours

 Networking with #WomeninTourism

As part of Women’s Month this August, the Department of Tourism is celebrating with a brunch and networking opportunity with outstanding and leading women in tourism. This years’ theme is 30 in 5, the aim of which is to ensure that of top management positions across the tourism industry in the next five years are filled by women. 

Confirm your attendance by no later than 23 August 2017 to:
Ms. Phatisa Ntlonze
Telephone: +27 (0) 12 444 6625
Cell: +27 (0) 78 144 5980