from FUTHI MBHELE in Durban
DURBAN – GROWING up, Lizeka Shandu, wanted to be an air attendant but for reasons beyond her control, she was denied the opportunity.
She could not qualify because during the late 1990s and 2000 the airline industry required a certain height in order to be an air attendant.
However, she did not let that dashed dream deter her. In fact, the aviation industry loss was a gain for the hospitality and tourism industry as she is now one of the most recognized travel consultants in the country and her company received acclaimed outside South African borders.
“So then, I wanted to work in the tourism industry as either travel adviser or officer which now is called travel consultant,” Shandu said in an interview with CAJ News Africa, recalling how her career took off.
She co-owns African Wild Travel with husband Xolani.
It started operations in 2010 with a vision of serving domestic leisure travelers.
“I get so excited showing or advising people which places they can visit, and exciting things they can do,” Shandu told CAJ News Africa.
“We know we have achieved our goal and vision when we hear our guests from their trips telling us about the great time they had,” she added.
“Travel is not only visiting a place. It’s about that excitement of being in the different environment and meeting new people. It’s strengthening the relationship and discovering about yourself.”
African Wild Travel has a vision to become a premier travel and tourism industry contributor in South Africa, a leading and preferred travel company of choice to offer all travel related services in the Southern Africa region and globally.
Shandu is encouraged that the gender gap is closing in the travel and tourism industry. Females are making a mark.
“Recently we also have (had) black female pilots operating local flights,” she said.
“There are also platforms like the Woman in Tourism which are available to empower and educate woman in the industry.”
Shandu nonetheless raised concern at the volatility of the sector locally.
“Traveling in South Africa is becoming so expensive for South African travelers,” she said.
“Airlines costs are being manipulated. The same seat that is R500 (over US$27) today, can be R2 500 to R4 000.
“A hotel room can be R1 000 today and R3 000 tomorrow,” Shandu highlighted.
Beyond African Wild Travel, she is an events co-ordinator, mentors young girls and a marriage counsellor.
She is also planning to venture into the property business and owning a hotel.
Shandu has a message for youths interested in entering the sector: “be willing and have a heart to serve travelers.”
“Know and do research of places to visit in South Africa or Africa. Love your country and speak positively about it.”
Shandu has won several accolades, including Mayoral Awards, Lion’s Den Competition, Best International and Domestic Getaway Operator– Durban and was a SAB Kickstart Finalist.
– CAJ News