More than 200 women from the African region kicked off a conference in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape Province last week to promote more active participation of women in the tourism sector.
During the two-day Women in Tourism Conference themed “Sustainable Tourism: A Tool for Radical Socio-Economic Development for Women,” delegates will address the challenges that affect the socio-economic empowerment of women, funding constraints, and the establishment of support structures and incentives.
In her key-note address, South African Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa urged African women to work together to influence governments’ policies and programs.
“Collectively, our active participation can result in a transformed and inclusive industry,” Xasa said.
Since its initiation in 2014, the Women in Tourism Conference has been convened annually, with the aim of elevating women in the tourism industry.
Over the years, the conference has been recognized as a platform that addresses the socio-economic concerns of women in the tourism sector and the continent as a whole.
The conference coincided with the ongoing 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, a worldwide campaign.
Conference participants called for greater commitment to enabling safer communities and an equitable tourism industry. This call has won the support from men in the tourism sector, according to Xasa.
“We acknowledge and applaud the men who joined us in pledging to protect women and children, and in building the representative tourism industry. Together, we can end the cycle of abuse,” said Xasa.
According to figures released at the conference, only 11 percent of tourism enterprises in South Africa had black women representation at boards, executives and senior management positions, and that the overall rate of transformation was slow.
“It is concerning that the representation of women at executive and senior management positions is low. Our collective participation is critical to transforming this sector. Rise up, and let us pro-actively strive to make this sector inclusive,” Xasa said.
She said radical social and economic transformation has been prioritized to accelerate the process of empowering South Africans, especially women and the youth, to play a meaningful role in building a sustainable economy.
The conference is expected to develop a constitution for the formation of an autonomous body that will drive women empowerment initiatives in the tourism sector.