Women in travel – continuing a proud national heritage

In August in South Africa, we celebrate women. Two of my favourite stories about women are one of a historical event and one of a recent event that took place in my industry, both of which perfectly illustrate how the determination and resilience of women can be demonstrated in very different ways. I have always made it clear that I don’t believe anyone, regardless of gender, race or culture, is entitled to anything other than to be given the opportunity to show what they can do and be rewarded accordingly. Actions speak louder than words and so here are my stories of women who took actions that made a difference…

A passive but powerful protest

The first is the story of how our National Women’s Day came about. It is an inspiring story of 20,000 women who, in the days of the apartheid regime, dared to march to the Union buildings to protest amendments to the already draconian pass laws of the day. It was the 9th of August 1956, a day that was to be marked in our history books. According to reports “The women left 14,000 petitions at the office doors of the prime minister. 100,000 signatures were left outside the prime minister’s door and there was a thirty-minute silent protest.’’

Now my favourite part of the story, a song of protest that was specially composed for the event was sung to honour it, so the women could make sure their voices were heard. The song was titled “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo” which translates to “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.” What an accurate prediction that would prove to be, as today that rock is the solid foundation on which we have built a nation of strong women, many of whom are in positions of power and influence.

An inspiring travel story

It is not just the women in power though that make a difference. Possibly because many are mothers or caregivers, women have a deep-seated survival instinct that helps them to face up to even the greatest of challenges. The pandemic has taught us that not only our lives are tenuous, but even our jobs and businesses are always at risk and I have seen many women rise above these hardships by taking jobs on the side or do whatever it takes to put food on the table for their families.

The other story I promised to recount gives me great hope for the travel industry of the future. It is not of any great achievement, but a simple story of caring and two women who went the extra mile to look after their clients. It is a true story and a recent one of the actions of BidTravel consultant Judy who is with New Frontiers Tours, working on the foreign travel agency, “Aardvark” account. Judy went out of her way to provide top service to her clients travelling here from the USA. They were to do a self-drive in the Kgalagadi game park, but an Airlink flight time change to Upington meant shopping for supplies was going to delay them getting into the park.

Judy e-mailed the female manager of the Superspar in Upington, who was incredibly helpful offering to keep a cashier on late to do the shopping for the visitors and keep the store’s doors open after hours, so they needed only to pay and collect their supplies. It was a triumph of collective effort and hospitality and beautifully illustrates that through simple actions we can make a difference to our industry. This told the world that SA is opening their arms and ready to welcome tourists, regardless of whatever challenges we face!

Proud to be a woman!

I am proud to be a woman when I read such stories and I salute the participants in them. As women in South Africa, we have no shortage of role models, all we need do to make a difference and ensure that we will leave a meaningful legacy – for our children to follow our natural instincts and continue our proud national heritage.

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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