As the world celebrates the achievements of African women during Women’s History Month, it is worth recognising some of the most ambitious African women in the tourism industry. Women are prominent in the tourism industry because of their strong leadership qualities and ability to confront issues affecting their local community.
As a result, women have become active entrepreneurs by operating, managing, and owning different types of tourism businesses. From owning businesses to promoting destinations or working hand-in-hand with international partners, African women have significantly contributed to shaping our continent’s resilient and sustainable tourism industry.
In honour of Women’s Month 2023, let us explore some of their impactful contributions to the industry. Here are seven women entrepreneurs in Africa’s tourism industry.
1. Semonia Bruiners, Guest Lodge on The Edge Pty Ltd
After eleven successful years in the hospitality industry and managing a guesthouse, Semonia launched her own. A committed believer in education and its ability to help reach dreams, she is passionate about fostering relationships by swiftly addressing customer grievances. Her diligence has paid off, with Guest Lodge on The Edge receiving 3 stars from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. It has also received 10/10 reviews from Booking.com and various other travel agents.
2. Charmaine Shirindzi, CTS Travel and Tours
With a passion for travel and an understanding of the industry from her former role as a government employee, Charmaine chose to resign and dedicate herself entirely to building companies. In 2015 she founded CTS Travel & Tours, which, within just six years, has flourished into a 10-bedroom guest house. Her dream was always to build something she loves – travelling. It isn’t a wonder that both CTS Travel & Tours and Nhlaphiwe Investments have done so well since then!
Charmaine has demonstrated patience and financial responsibility while taking advantage of the available programs while keeping a strong network. As a result, she was able to purchase two more hectares for her tented camps, 30-room hotel and 10 chalets – greatly expanding her business.
3. Phetheni Mbonambi, Syavaya Corporate Travel
Phetheni is a woman with an unquenchable passion for travel, connecting with others and bringing joy to her clients. She previously held the role of relationship manager at a tourism business which provided her ample opportunities to host customers and attend workshops facilitated by South African Tourism.
In 2017, she established her own company that offers shuttle services, corporate transfers and group excursions to enthralling destinations throughout the country. They are perfect for those seeking adventure or simply wishing to explore their homeland! Driven by success in everything she does, Pheteni continues on this path today. She plans to expand her company by introducing more destinations for customers to explore and creating partnerships with local communities.
4. Daphne Spencer, Business & Hospitality Consultant
Daphne Spencer an Ambitious African Woman in Tourism, has been on a remarkable journey since interning at Walt Disney World, which eventually led her back to Ghana. During this voyage she co-founded the African Association of Women in Tourism and Hospitality with Amaka Amatokwu- Ndekwu, where they are making an undeniable impact in the African tourism industry.
She is a Business & Hospitality Consultant working on new hotel openings, consulting for new developments, liaising with global brands, and guiding investors through the various brand pathways to opening a branded or independent hotel.
5. Ada Shepiadah, Camp Maintenance, Wilderness Safaris
Ada Shepiadah is also among the great African Women in Tourism. Growing up in the small town of Maun, Zimbabwe, with 12 siblings, ignited a spark within Ada Shepiadah to build a better life for herself. Ada Shepiadah holds a diploma in Motor Mechanics and is responsible for tending to all maintenance issues at the camp, from malfunctioning zippers on tents down to jeeps.
6. Sandra Samulala, General Manager of the Santawani Camp
Sandra Samulala, a member of the Surabaya Tribe from Kasane, Botswana, was just awaiting her Grade 12 exam results when she got an invitation to join her aunt and observe her work with mobile Safaris. She completed high school and worked as a teacher for a short period before getting hired by Wilderness Safaris in bookkeeping. As time passed, she steadily advanced through the ranks until finally obtaining two years’ worth of hospitality and management training, leading to employment as a manager at Baobab Camp.
After a year of working in the U.S. at Disneyland, Covid-19 hit, and all plans abruptly Ac. A family tragedy then presented itself, further upending her life before Wilderness ultimately rescued her in 2022 and offered renewed employment prospects.
7. Ann Cheptumo, Acheche Tours & Events Management
From her early days, Cheptumo dreamed of becoming an air hostess. She, however, changed her mind after stumbling across a magazine article about travel agencies during her second year in high school. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Regional Centre for Tourism and Foreign Languages in Nairobi where she studied Travel, Tours and Tourism Operations – setting her up to excel within multiple tour and travel companies upon qualification. In 2008, she established Acheche Tours & Events Management which has seen her flourishing in the industry.
The African continent is on many people’s bucket list thanks to its diverse cultures, incredible landscapes and mesmerizing wildlife. It’s exciting to see that more and more women are working as guides in Africa, despite a long way to go for true gender equality. According To the Kenyan Professional Safari Guides Association, an estimated 300 of Kenya’s 4,000 guides are female – showing clear progress has been made. As we look back at history, many amazing African women have left an indelible mark on the sector through their creativity and hard work – even when facing tough challenges – pushing boundaries and inspiring others along their path.
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