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Businesswoman makes camping glamorous

Sithole determined to make travelling accessible via Glamping Adventures

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist
Packages include a range of activities, accommodation in fully set up and furnished tents and all meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Packages include a range of activities, accommodation in fully set up and furnished tents and all meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Image: Supplied

A childhood yearning to travel, coupled with the skills brought about by her job in adulthood and the passion to make travel accessible are what spurred Gugu Sithole to start her travel business.  

The three-year-old business, Glamping Adventures, is just the right fit for those who like to explore but don’t want to fuss with the logistics of putting up a tent as that’s a service that Sithole will provide for you.  

All you need to do is book a trip with Sithole to a particular camp site, such as the Drakensburg or Oribie Gorge in KZN, Graskop or Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, among many other sites.

Sithole was recently awarded the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award.
Sithole was recently awarded the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award.
Image: Supplied

Sithole and her team will then head down to the site and make sure everything is set, you just bring yourself. Her packages include activities (hiking, bungee jumping, zip lining, river rafting or archery, etc.), accommodation (fully set up and furnished tents) and all meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you fancy a massage, you can get that too.

“We are a roving service; we go around different locations in SA and we setup our own tents. We own all the infrastructure from the tents to beds, you know all the furniture. Our market is really people who love to travel, love the outdoors, love adventure but do not want to get their hands dirty.

“They want those creature comforts, they are sophisticated in the sense that they want a full on service, so that when they get to the location the tents are already up, furnished and just ready for them to check-in.”

Sithole had been working in events management in corporate SA before starting her business, but says she wasn’t fulfilled. She wanted to do something that directly empowered women in rural communities and settled on tourism as “the vehicle to do such”. She still caters to the corporate crowd by offering corporate retreats for those who want nature as their backdrop as they hash out company strategy.

Her biggest drive is in uplifting and empowering the communities she sets tent up in. She says she often gets calls from the rural communities she works with when she’s not around to ask her when she’ll be back because she hires some locals to assist her core team in set up, kitchen duties, ushering, trail guides and often asks local craftspeople to show their work to her clients. She says this helped her to think about how she could assist the communities.

Image: Supplied

“I knew that I had to get the message across to the guys that these are your tourism assets, own them, look after them so that they may in turn look after you. I started training them on conservation, on sustainability and on putting together their own day packages for guests.

“I said to a lady who guides my guests, don’t wait to guide me; there are many people that come here, you should offer this service. We also decided that Glamping Adventures will be then creating a digital market place for all the artists and the arts and crafts that they can sell, so that it not only reaches our guys that we take them to but that it reaches an international market as well.”

Sithole is also in the process of ensuring that women in the communities they visit will be able to own a part of the Glamping Adventures business. By training them to be hosts and owning their own tents so that they can be able to receive guests via Glamping Adventures. Sithole, who was recently honoured with the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award, says the award affirms that she’s headed in the right direction, making travelling accessible to all.

Image: Supplied

“I’m still in disbelief but it’s also fantastic. I feel it’s a validation that we are on track, that the work that we do is recognised and we’re being recognised for our purpose which is to get as many people travelling as possible, to open up the tourism industry specifically...”

Sithole goes on to explain how she came across a shocking statistic while reading, the research stated that out of close to 60 million people in the country, only about 3,5 million of them are able to travel domestically.

“So our primary goal is to make travel accessible and should not be associated with wealth. There’s so much we can do and see in terms of the unexplored gems in SA. So I wanted travel to be accessible, especially to the previously disenfranchised.”

Sithole moved to Soweto and lived on Vilakazi Street in her early teens, she says she never knows which place to say she’s from. She describes herself as a driven, resilient and persistent person.

Image: Supplied

“I’ve seen how the odds are almost always against women, in business especially. We deal with a lot of structural barriers and traditional biases; I’ve found that we constantly have to prove that we are capable, So one really needs resilience and confidence as well.  

Sithole’s advice for the first time camper: “Go out there with an open mind, if you enjoy the outdoors, if you enjoy nature, go out there and revel in the beauty that SA has. And also, if you’re a first timer rather glamp, don’t camp.”

Gugu Sithole was recently awarded the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award, she says the award affirms that she’s headed in the right direction making travelling accessible to all.
Gugu Sithole was recently awarded the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award, she says the award affirms that she’s headed in the right direction making travelling accessible to all.
Image: Supplied

Sitholes top five camping destination

Graskop

Kruger National Park

Coffee Bay

The Drakensberg

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

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