Lindiwe Mahlangu, the Johannesburg Tourism Company's new head, has found her space in life.
After her tenure at eThekwini Municipality as head of the business support unit, she discovered her passion for tourism and has not looked back. She was municipal tourism agency Durban Africa's chief executive officer.
Her passion for tourism has led her to the city of gold where she hopes to leave her mark as she implements plans to market Joburg as Africa's premier business and leisure destination.
Q: Why did you choose this sector?
A: I've always wanted to find my space in my professional life where I knew I would make a difference and leave a measurable impact. With tourism, I really found my home.
Q: What fulfills you in terms of the work you do?
A: Knowing that I've made a positive difference in a person's life.
Q: What has been your contribution at the JTC so far?
A: Putting all the processes together and ensuring that we are building a credible organisation. I think the results are beginning to show.
Q: What is your mandate?
A: To market Joburg as Africa's premier business and tourism destination. It's important that we showcase Joburg based on our authenticity, the things that are locally produced. Also, we need to begin influencing local people to start looking at Joburg as a destination to visit and have fun.
We want people to have an exciting experience in Joburg like when they visit New York, Paris or London. People know that they are there to shop, dine and experience the night life and that's how we are positioning Joburg as a world-class African city.
Q: What are the challenges facing Joburg in terms of tourism growth?
A: The economic structure is different. While Cape Town and Durban are seen as preferred tourism destinations, Joburg hasn't been that prominent. We need to look at how we can package ourselves in a way that will bring positive results for tourism to add to the economic growth of the city.
Q: What opportunities are there for women entrepreneurs in the tourism sector?
A: There are a lot of opportunities in tourism, but people usually limit them to accommodation. There are shuttle services, tour guiding, travel agencies, event management, restaurants and so on. We are seeing an emerging group of young black women getting into tour guiding and events.
It's a service-driven industry so there are issues around compliance, accreditation and grading because certain standards have to be met. But government has invested a lot to ensure that people are adequately trained to grab the opportunities that are available.
Q: Joburg is notorious for its high crime levels. What are your plans to help reduce crime in the city?
A: Crime in Joburg is a sad reality. We must appreciate the fact that it is big and a place of opportunity for everyone so we are bound to experience such problems. We need to focus on the implementation of our safety and security plan in partnership with safer cities programmes. Crime occurs everywhere in the world and Joburg is no exception. We will be putting our programmes in line with the global best practices because tourism safety and security is our priority.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career?
A: Seeing people I've helped moving up the ladder. In Durban, where I was piloting a project with Standard Bank, we met women who owned bed and breakfast establishments and offered them training. One of them now owns a boutique hotel across the road from ICC.
Q: What is your strength?
A: The ability to identify people with talent and hunger for success and unlocking opportunities for them.
Q: What advice can you give women wanting to get into the tourism sector?
A: Believe in yourself, find your passion and calling and focus on achieving your goals.