Born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal, iSimangaliso Wetland Park marketing and brand manager Thandi Shabalala stands as an inspiration to all women wanting to break into the tourism industry.
Fortunate enough to have been brought up near the ocean among the sugar cane fields of Othongathi, Shabalala has always displayed a keen interest in the landscape around her and is well prepared for the position she currently holds.
“My job is to entice the world to the jewel that is iSimangaliso, a World Heritage Site that doesn’t need that much inviting.
“I truly believe that every person should visit a place like iSimangaliso at least once in their lifetime,” said Shabalala, adding that she also establishes and monitors tourism trends to ensure iSimangaliso remains the world’s must-see-destination that it is.
Shabalala says her job is made simple due to the fact that iSimangaliso is a naturally beautiful and biologically-diverse environment.
“We have more than enough options on offer in terms of activities and I personally enjoy iSimangaliso so much that I cannot keep it to myself, naturally”.
Shabalala said South Africa has made great strides in improving gender representation in the workplace and the tourism industry would appear to be leading with the highest percentage of women than men.
“In my opinion women are naturally better hosts than men and women pay attention to detail, thus ensuring their visitor’s expectations are exceeded which is a huge advantage for females in the tourism sector. What’s better than making a living whilst doing that which comes naturally to you?” asks Shabalala.
She advised women in the tourism industry and all other respected professions to explore the many opportunities that exist within the industry.
“You must also advance yourself in the field that you love because it makes your work easier,” said Shabalala.
Reflecting on the recent unrest that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng, Shabalala advised South African’s to realise the value that lies in front of them.
“We should start by taking stock of what we have, value it and use our given talents to improve our circumstances. Start that home garden you have been putting off for so long. In your own yard, get the family out and enjoy the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal stars at night. Some people cross oceans to come and enjoy our sunrise and sunsets, so value that”.
“Africans are known for Ubuntu; check on your neighbour now and then. Many people have lost their jobs due to the recent unrest; value the job you have and make the best out of it as that will create a better opportunity for somebody else in the near future,” advised Shabalala.
She said the youth who witnessed the impact of the unrest, should educate and encourage other youth to get involved in self-sustainable businesses and development programmes.
“Just days after the disturbances in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, beautiful people of South Africa displayed a great reminder of what we stand for as people by joining hands and giving of their time to clean up the debris in affected areas. What better way to show that together we will rise again?” asked Shabalala.