Tourism is one of South Africa’s economic pillars and it is in this sector where  government wants to see more women participate economically. The annual women in tourism conference was held in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and looked at support structures and incentives to empower women to do business in tourism. The Department of Tourism said at the conference it will intensify its support for women in the sector.

Accommodation provision and catering are areas in which women already has a presence in the tourism sector.  The Red Location Lodge in New Brighton is a good example, it started off small as a community driven project. It began by selling food out of a container and now it is a backpacker’s lodge, catering business and a conference centre . However, even after a decade of existence there are still challenges.

“As elderly women, we would love to get more skills so that we are able to develop, and be able to maintain the business. Our wish is to extend this building so that we are able to be on the same level as other businesses in town. For example this week there is a tourism event, but all the guests are sleeping in Summerstrand, but we are also here and we want our business to grow,” said Barbara Mkalali of Red Location Lodge.

More than 200 attended the tourism conference. The Tourism sector is now developing platforms to enable women to enter the market with support from government. Funding can now be accessed through a government portal.

“We are going through the provinces to introduce this portal so that SMME’S can plug into it, can market themselves, and we get to know them so that we are able to direct them to where they can get support and also link up with other enterprises within the industry,” said minister of tourism Tokozile Xasa.

Entrepreneurs are also moving away from “business as usual” to the business of creative development. Tuka Smith runs a beauty and clothing boutique. She designs all her garments and makes accessories for local consumers.

“With my garments I create employment with that being said there are ladies who help  me. Some help me with designs, some fabrics are imported and others local so that as well the ladies across the country that will help me pick the stuff . You can see I love vibrant colours because it represents us women we are vibrant, we are loud we are out there , and we want to be heard.”

A study conducted by the Tourism Council on the State of Tourism Transformation revealed that the overall rate of transformation was slow.