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By JAMES LANKA, 14th December 2011 @ 16:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 50
The Global Report on Women in Tourism (GRWT) an initiative by the United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO) has recently marked a new era for incorporating gender issues in the tourism sector.
It provides detailed statistical information on women’s role and their status in the tourism industry, offering recommendations on how to improve the current situation. UNWTO and UN women believe that tourism can be a vehicle for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Yet, much work needs to be done in order for this potential to be realized. One of the Great Female entrepreneurs, Ms Zainab Ansell who runs today, proudly, one of the biggest tourism
companies in Tanzania called, Zara Tours Company (Zara Tanzanian Adventures) was among the three women who attended UNWTO event in London, UK in November, this year.
The event debated among other issues, tourism’s potential for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment while at the same time examining current challenges and gaps to gender equality in the sector.
Other invited panelists were; Ms. Liz Cramer Campos, the National Secretary of Tourism, Paraguay, who represented her Government, and Ms Angela Hajipateras, the member of the Foundation for the Development of Zambezia, Mozambique who was a representative of Civil Society.
Ms. Zainab Ansell, say Women should justify why they are equal to men by demonstrating their capabilities in doing things men do. They should prove societies thinking that women’s position is in the kitchen by entering fields that were previously deemed male domain. These, she says, include businesses such as tourism industry which were taken as difficult to penetrate particularly by women.
“It took a lot of will and courage to reach the point I am today because women in Tanzania like in any developing country, face great challenges when creating companies and becoming entrepreneurs….” says Zainab Ansell, one of the female entrepreneur in Tanzania.
She says ‘An African belief that women are a weaker sex and supposed to stay at home and take care of children is no longer holding ground. Gone, she adds, are days when societies were not expecting women to be part of the public life or contribute to their economy and that of the nation.
Speaking in an interview with the ‘Woman Magazine’ recently at her office located at Pasua surbub in Moshi Municipality, Ms Ansell said that, in pursuing her dream of becoming an entrepreneur, she had to overcome many barriers. One of them she said, was access to credit facility.
“Women usually do not apply for loans and it was difficult for me to convince the loan officer to grant me a loan to start my business..” she explained. According to Ms Ansell, even to get licenses from relevant authorities was difficult simply because she was a woman seeksing to undertake such a big business.
“Licensing authorities were reluctant to give me the documents I needed to start my business. However, it was perseverance and resilience that kept me going when facing these barriers.” The Founder and Director of Zara Tanzania Adventures explained. She added that, her determination grew in the early 1980’s while working for the Tanzanian national flag
carrier, Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC), in the department of reservations and sales.
“Working with ATC created a dream. I wanted to open my own travel agency, to be able to move from clerical position to a more paying adventure,” she said adding; “In 1984, I used my savings and ‘Zara International Travel Agency’ was registered in Moshi, Kilimanjaro
region. The dream began to become a reality…” Ms Ansell explained.
According to her, it took a great deal of hard work to become an established agent. Learning by experience and participating in relevant courses run by different airlines was the key to her success. “After only about 18 months I applied for the membership of IATA (the International Air Transport Association) and was accepted. This seal of approval gave the agency credibility and sales started to go up,” she explicated.
The license to operate the travel agency, she added, was quite expensive and she noticed that it encompassed Mountain Climbing and Safaris. “Since I was paying for the license, I decided to give mountain climbing and safari a try, but miraculously it took off and started paying too, “she said. “It took about 6 years of hard work and pains taking dealing with airline bookings, ticketing, safari trips and expeditions on Mt Kilimanjaro to achieve recognition,” Ms Ansell explained.
From 1990 things started going well and a second office was opened. Proper planning was a vital part of the business and promotional trips became necessary, she said. Visits to travel markets in London, Berlin and South Africa were made to promote the business.
“On several occasions upon meeting representatives from foreign companies I noticed that many were surprised by their facial expressions to see a woman running a Tanzanian Travel business,” he said adding “It became necessary to prove myself a competent and reliable person, running an experienced and reliable company.” she pointed out.
According to Ms Ansell, things went well and with a great deal of hard work the business expanded. “Nothing is easy and there were many hurdles to overcome. Client accommodation was one problem, and finding hotels with good security, acceptable standards but affordable prices, was another challenge,” she added. In 1994, she added, she decided to build her own accommodation facility, - ‘Springlands Hotel’.
A new learning adventure was the hotel business. Initially it had about 10 rooms, but after few years it expanded to 88 self-contained rooms, a swimming pool and services such as internet, laundry, television room, a Sauna, security boxes, airline ticketing and more were
added. “Usually safari trips require accommodation facilities in various destinations so eventually I opened another hotel for this purpose,” she said.
The High view Hotel was opened in 2006 with 40 self-contained rooms. Other properties were also initiated, the Serengeti Wild Camp and the Ikoma Gorge Wild Camp, she added. She further explained that, these are both permanent tented camp sites with all the comforts of home. A new property is now due to open this month- the Ngorongoro Wild Camp.
“And I hope to keep this adventure going for as along as I can…” Ms Ansell pointed out.
According to her, tourism is a very demanding business and a good understanding of its ins and outs was necessary for success. She says, "in tourism industry, as a business expands so do the problems." However, she adds, the challenges are there to overcome and with the
assistance of reliable staff this can be accomplished.
“One very important element for success is to work with the community. It should not be viewed as charity; it should be seen as a good business. Creating employment, which is very much needed, and training people will translate into good service and less poverty,” she added.
According to her, Zara has assisted and continued to support local community projects such as the Maasai women’s project, the Kilimanjaro Porter’s Society, the Kilimanjaro Orphanage, the Huruma Women’s Foundation and installing electricity and water to surrounding villages.
“Women’s rights have improved significantly in Tanzania over the past three decades, which means it is easier now for women to come forward and work to achieve their goals and
ambitions,” she said. According to Ms Ansell, women are now heading an integrated part of Tanzanian business.
She said there were huge opportunities out there for women to get out of poverty circle but to
achieve them requires hard work, endurance and determination. “A good example is the
company I run. It is now in its 27th year, during which time I have learnt a great deal about
tourism trade. Mistakes are inevitable, learn from them and don’t give up,” she insisted.