Community tourism can improve opportunities for women in Africa, a session hosted by Women in Travel at WTM London has revealed
The panel discussion “How Can We Use Travel and Tourism to Stimulate Women Empowerment and Gender Equity in the African Continent?” invited Sthembiso Dlamini, chief operating officer and acting chief executive at South African Tourism; Abigail Mbalo, head chef and founder at 4Roomed eKasi Culture; Zina Bencheikh, regional general manager EMEA at Peak DMC; and Amelia Diaz, tourism development specialist at the International Trade Centre (ITC) to the stage.
According to moderator Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel, 55% of all businesses in Africa are owned by women and 60% to 70% of employees in travel and tourism are female.
“Tourism empowers huge parts of the world, but we are still seeing limited presence for women in the upper levels and also challenges when it comes to entrepreneurship,” she said.
Recent trends have shown that travellers are looking for immersive experiences such as going into local communities, which then begins to impact that community, said Dlamini.
Through this, tour operators have the “opportunity to empower women in the way they design tours”, said Bencheikh. This can range from using female tour guides, to offering experiences or activities that give women in African communities the chance to be entrepreneurs, “even in places where there is a big cultural barrier”.
An example of this is a project ITC runs in Gambia where cookery tours with local women are offered.
“We have shown women in villages the value of their cooking skills, where tourists will come just to learn how to cook a local dish with them.”
In South Africa, “Sustainability Villages” at trade shows are helping female entrepreneurs to bring their products to an international audience.
“We encourage delegates to buy from local rural women rather than giving them gift bags, and give delegates vouchers to spend in the Sustainability Village,” said Dlamini.