The Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) hosted its third edition of Southern Africa Women in Tourism Conference from 28 to 30 November 2016 at Velmore Hotel Estate, Centurion, South Africa. This year’s theme was “BUILDING CONFIDENCE, CAPACITY AND PROVISION OF CAPITAL TO OUR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS”.
The Chairperson for RETOSA Board Dr Sem Shikongo opened the conference and described women as natural leaders who are strategic, passionate, entrepreneurial, life givers and transmitters of knowledge and wisdom. In line with the Conference, Dr Sem Shikongo encouraged women to move from focusing on costly projects to locally driven developments under Community Based Tourism Projects. We need to empower communities to make their own decisions and also capitalize on our comparative advantages as well as understand market structure within which we want to play” he said.
Also speaking during the Women in Tourism conference, the Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Honourable Anastancia Ndhlovu had this to say, “Women have a big role to play in tourism and this is a low hanging fruit in almost all our countries after our leaders in the region have given it prominence as one of the key drivers to add value to the economic revival agenda of all SADC countries in a sustainable way”.The Deputy Minister Department of Tourism South Africa, Honourable Tokozile Xasa also shared her sentiments about the need to look into further development for women in tourism and to integrate big events together as women constitute the majority numbers in the tourism industry, “Women command a majority of numbers in the tourism sector,” she said.
Southern Africa Women in Tourism Conference 2016 happened at a time when individuals and organisations around the world are campaigning to eliminate violence against women and girls. The Regional Programme Director for Africa UNWTO Africa Ms. Marie-Alise Elcia Grandcourt spoke about the need to address women’s economic disadvantage in Africa and the need to address inequality faced by women.
Organised by the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa, the Southern Africa Women in Tourism Conference provides an opportunity for women in the sector to network and share ideas on how to embark on new business and how to grow existing business. SAWIT is unique in the sense that it focuses on different programmes to ensure successful development and empowerment of women in tourism business. Some of the issues discussed during 2016 conference included:
· Religious Tourism in Southern Africa and the opportunities for women.
· Sustainable tourism, arts, crafts and culture opportunities for Southern Africa Women in Tourism.
· Sustainable Tourism Development value chain linkages; opportunities for women in both rural and urban.
· Access to the market through social media marketing and digital marketing.
· Access to funding on opportunities for Southern Africa Women in Tourism.
This year’s conference had gone a notch higher as it had Fashion Designers showcasing their designs and an exhibition running concurrently with the conference. There was also entertainment from some of South Africa’s finest performing artists.