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SA & Beyond

02 August 2020

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Celebrating Women in Tourism

Tourism Month (September) is upon us in South Africa and what better way to celebrate it than to shine a light on a few of the amazing women who are contributing significantly to the tourism industry. I believe that it is essential for us to ALWAYS acknowledge the vital role that women play in society.

Sunisha Sookdew
SA & Beyond Travel Magazine

To all the women out there: Remain true to yourself and be comfortable in your own skin at all times. Always be kind to yourself and never forget to make time for YOU. Never doubt your worth and always place yourself in a position to lead by example. Let us raise our little girls to become strong, confident, independent women who are fearless in following their dreams. As women, we need build and lift each other up which, I believe, would lend a hand in overcoming the challenges that we may face. Remember that we are more powerful when we empower each other.

‘Women are born to thrive, not just survive.’

Mpolaheng Mohlopi – Lanseria International Airport

Mpolaheng Mohlopi is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Lanseria International Airport. A married financial fundi with three beautiful children all the way from Ga-Makgato in Limpopo, has demonstrated success scaling companies in both the public and private sector. She is well recognized for maximizing company performance and demonstrated this strength in the public sector which made her to be a well sought-after candidate in the private sector.

An accountant at heart, Mpolaheng obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Cape Town, served her articles at one of the Big 4 audit firms and qualified as a CA. She has worked both in the public and private sector and has a reputation of good governance, ensuring that the company has a healthy balance sheet and clean audits. Her career spans over 15 years with various managerial positions before breaking into the executive position. She prides herself in being a team player and developing individuals to unleash their potential.

Mpolaheng Mohlopi
Lanseria International Airport

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt: I am active in the charity space but the advent of COVID-19 has encouraged me to personally give back more. COVID19 has reminded me that giving is sharing the little that you have with the people around so that we can all have something during these trying times. I am actively involved in mentoring professionals for personal development however due to the pandemic most of them are unemployed. My struggle now is to connect them to new opportunities to capacitate them to provide for their families.

An inspirational message to women: Ladies, lets embrace the challenge and be the light in this storm. This is an opportunity to collaborate and positively influence the spaces we occupy. Each one to carry one in that way we share in the burden and help each other cross to a place where there is light. We are not placed in these positions for our sake, rather for the purpose of unlocking resources and using those resources to unlock potential in others. There is a very good chance that we will survive this, however we know that great things happen when preparation and opportunity meet. The task ahead is not to get over the storm however to seize the opportunities that arise from this. We are born for such a time as this and together we can overcome.

Dawn Jorgensen – The Incidental Tourist

A self-professed earth advocate and beauty seeker, Dawn is a conscious traveller and natural storyteller. On her award-winning blog The Incidental Tourist, as well as in numerous print and online publications – she shares words, photographs, reviews and discoveries from her extensive international and local travels, as well as details of conservation campaigns that she supports. From gorilla trekking in Uganda, turtle rescue in Kenya, crampon hiking in Patagonia and setting up a temporary home in Lisbon, her focus remains on sustainable and ethical tourism, while highlighting the ways that we can enjoy the privilege of travel. Dawn also consults in best sustainable tourism practices.

Dawn Jorgensen
The Incidental Tourist

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt:The collapse of the travel industry as a result of Covid-19 greatly affected my earning ability, with most of my work falling away overnight. As a freelance writer contributing to numerous travel and in-flight magazines, that side of my work doesn’t look set to return soon. That said I am fortunate enough to be working with a few tourism companies redefining their offering and examining what shape travel will take in the new world. I’m grateful for the challenge and hoping for a greener, more sustainable future for the industry.

An inspirational message to women: Be kind to yourself! So much of what is happening is beyond our control and we need to accept that while nurturing our health, minds and hearts. Let’s focus on what we can do, personally and professionally, and give it our best. We now know that we can work from home, live more modestly and how much we cherish our family and loved one. Let’s keep supporting each other, small businesses and local travel, and work towards a greener and more sustainable way of life – all while being intrinsically kind to ourselves. We are enough! Oh, and wear that mask.

Megan Bruiners – Travel Gem

Megan is a devoted wife, kingdom entrepreneur and purpose coach with a global vision. Growing up in marginalised community on the Cape Flats motivated her to break barriers and change the status quo for individuals to pursuit their purpose as well as entrepreneurship so that they can influence societies. Megan has a Master’s degree in travel and tourism, and uses her extensive knowledge and experience to empower others.
She is also the owner and founder of her inbound travel company, Travel Gem which serves both local and international guests with authentic travel experiences. Her passion fuels her purpose to leave a legacy behind for the next generation to be the change they want to see.

Megan Bruiners
Travel Gem

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt: We were directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as the borders were closed and everything came to a standstill. It was a total reset that took place, not only for the business but also for the employees in the business.
I learned that you can be “unlocked in the midst of lockdown” and the importance of personal development. Just because it is a crisis, does not mean that you can’t upgrade your skills and plan strategically ahead. You do not have control of what happens externally, but you have the power to change internally. If you do not invest in yourself, your business won’t function well and you can’t lead effectively.

An inspirational message to women: You find your authentic self in the midst of a crisis, when you are challenged. A crisis presents an opportunity for a new beginning and to spend time with your Creator, to find out if you are on the right course to your God-given purpose and destiny. Sometimes, a detour allows you to revisit the vision for your life and to revise your choices. This woman’s month, know that you have a gift inside of you, that is unique to only you and designed to meet a need. You are valuable. Discover your purpose, then you will find your success.

Michele Immelman – Curious Journeys

Michele has an unbridled passion for India and its people. Its diversity, colour, sounds, sights, smells and tastes make India not only a unique but also a very special place to visit. And because the welcome and the warmth of its people is something that simply cannot be captured in a picture or expressed in an essay, she has made it her business to share that experience with others. Curious Journeys is just Michele and her passion to have others explore a truly special place and special people with her…

Michele Immelman
Curious Journeys

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt: Covid-19 in all its harshness has afforded me the opportunity to re-package journeys in such a way that will slow down the pace of travel. Curious Journeys’ focus will be on conscious travel. Stays will be longer in each destination, we’ll explore more offbeat places and support the rural communities with immersive experiences for the traveler.

An inspirational message to women: Recently the headline on the cover of Time Magazine referred to Jacinda Adern’s leadership as “A New Kind of Soft Power”. I would encourage women to understand the complexity of the phrase and to take up the mantel and be the empathetic leaders, ready to stand tall and proud with gentleness and feminine gracefulness.

Dineo Setsetse – Soweto Hotel & Conference Centre

Dineo is a passionate, self-motivated, disciplined, mentor, motivator with very strong leadership qualities. She has been in the Hospitality and Travel industry for well over 25 years, in sales & marketing, business development and is currently General Manager of the Soweto Hotel and Conference Centre situated at the Historical Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, in Kliptown, Soweto, Gauteng, South Africa. She has also worked with various Non-Government Organizations where she assisted them with various disciplines such as compliance issues, funding and so forth. She also worked in the SMME environment as a shareholder and director within the tourism and corporate sectors.

Dineo Setsetse
Soweto Hotel & Conference Centre

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt: COVID-19 is and continues to be harsh on both business and persons. Everyone is losing loved ones daily to the virus and there seems to be no end in-sight to this. With the Tourism sector on lockdown, employees are going months without any income, and the Covid-19 relief assistance from government is also insufficient.

An inspirational message to women: As women of South Africa, we need to spend time on our knees praying to God for His grace and healing of our nation. It is up to us to drive Covid-19 education in our households as well as communities and do what’s needed to keep this virus away.

Sally Grierson – Great Migration Camps

Gifted with a love of travel, nature & the spirit of adventure since a young child, Sally has always felt at home in the great outdoors. She was born in Zimbabwe and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. She trained as a physiotherapist at the University of Cape Town before travelling the world extensively working as a physio. Her love of Africa brought her home where she switched careers to the travel and tourism industry. She worked at a lodge, before starting an inbound marketing & tourism company in Cape Town. She moved to East Africa with her partner 4 years ago and is now the Great Migration Camps safari engineer – crafting safari itineraries, mountain climbing expeditions and adventure travels in East Africa and managing our camp and reservations. During these unprecedented times she has become the production manager for the Serengeti Show Live – Covid-19 series!

Sally Grierson
Great Migration Camps

The effect of Covid-19 and the lesson learnt: We run a small mobile safari camp (www.greatmigratoncamps.com) in the Serengeti National Park, following the wildebeest and the great migration. As with all tourism, bookings and inquiries were cancelled or postponed immediately. A friend was stranded in Tanzania with us and together we brainstormed what we could do to help conservation and tourism (and keep ourselves from going crazy). The two are intrinsically linked as this period has shown. We decided we could produce a wildlife show from the Serengeti. We approached the authorities to get their support and worked with numerous local and international tourism partners and headed off to the Serengeti with an idea, our mobile camp, our small team, 1 camera, 1 phone, a radio mic, small donations. We learnt how to film, edit, produce and market a show in the wilderness. There were virtually no vehicles, people or transport options for resupply and water. With “How to…” videos”, phone-a-friend and some creative solutions we did it.  We produced 30 episodes of Serengeti Show Live (https://www.youtube.com/serengetishowlive).  Tanzania is open and we are delighted to see a few tourists starting to arrive – most of whom have seen the show. We feel proud that we may have been able to influence tourism recovery in East Africa in our small way, by promoting and showcasing the Serengeti.  It has been tough financially, but during these times, we know we have to cut back, be proactive and resilient and hang in there. This is a long game and not a short one! Let’s see!

Lessons learned: Always have water. Look after your health – eat well and keep moving.  Be bold. Be brave (the situation was scary, so is living with lions or getting malaria). Trust your instincts. Trust yourself. You can do more than you think. It’s never too late to learn new skills. Love what you do. Be passionate. Be curious. Be fascinated about your surroundings. You need a community – it’s impossible to achieve anything without support – be it practical, logistical, intellectual or emotional. Manage your cash flow. Say thank you. You need less than you think – but have a good wine and biltong supplier. Appreciate what you have.

An inspirational message to women: Be independent with a network of support. Be authentic and true to yourself. Don’t hide behind make-up or clothes or fancy bags. Anything is possible if you have the right attitude. Find the positives in every situation – it’s never as bad as you think! Make a decision and go for it – no-one else can make it happen for you. Be reliable and trust worthy- go the extra mile at work and with the people you care about. Thank your families and friends. People are all the same – we all want food, water, shelter & better opportunities for our kids. Treat everyone well and with respect. Stay fit, healthy and as balanced as possible. I have a natural enthusiasm for experiencing life, enjoying each moment and seizing opportunities – even those that are scary or challenging. I hope that can inspire other women to trust their own abilities, be brave enough to attempt their own challenges or new experiences.