Meet Kgabo Phaka, the beautiful and ambitious Director of Sales at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and Resort in KwaZulu-Natal. Born and bred in Soweto but schooled and grew up in Limpopo. After Kgabo graduated, she moved back to Johannesburg to study, and her love for tourism started when she started looking for a job. Kgabo is in her current position for a full year and a half now and calls herself “a brand ambassador for tourism”.
“I always knew that I was going to work in the tourism industry, in all honesty. Back then, in our black community, the only accessibility that we all knew about tourism, was either you will be a flight attendant, or you’re working at the airport. And that’s used to fascinate me as I used to go to the airport and just look around and look at the flight attendants looking very lovely. It just amazed me.” There and then Kgabo’s love for tourism and travel started as she says, “I’m going to be in this industry. So I enrolled in travel and tourism. Just when I completed, I got my first opportunity as a receptionist at Six Travel, which is now has rebranded is Avis. Since then, I’ve never looked back, and I’ve worked in various organisations within the industry as well. It has been an amazing journey.”
I love my job
Through chuckles and laughs, Kgabo shares the reasons why she love her job and what she does. She starts by saying, “Just walking around the property and seeing clients satisfaction and exceeding the expectations. That makes me so happy and just taking the time and being sales driven. You know, if the hotel is sitting on 20% occupancy. I start stressing because that’s not sales for me. I make sure that the hotel is full in terms of occupancy and travelling and networking with different people.”
Kgabo makes an example to when she once went travelling, and she would merely just say to people, “I work for five months at the resort”, and everybody else only becomes so interested in the brand as one. She laughed and said, “That makes my job so much more interesting and fun if I put it like that.”
The contribution of tourism
According to Kgabo, tourism played a massive role in her life and has influenced her to become part of the industry and not just that, she stated that the tourism industry is one of the most significant contributors to the South African economy. Kgabo says that the tourism industry is more like a supply chain. In the sense that we need to work together as sectors to expect a successful outcome for the greater good. That greater good would then be selling South Africa as the best destination.
Kgabo shares her sentiments when it comes to the family in terms of tourism, “I mean, it’s time to bond. You create memories as well because it’s been important for at least once to travel and see other places and meet new people, you know, just to take the family away and you have a lovely time, and you bond with the family. So that’s why I’d love tourism.”
For the women in tourism
Confidently Kgabo smiles and says, “Let’s break the barriers, the barriers with the woman in tourism, if we can break that and support each other, we will be able to lift each other as well.”
Furthermore, she elaborates on how we, as women, should support each other and not leave each other deserted. Kgabo goes on to say that many women don’t know that there is more to tourism than working in a hotel or B&B, by opening a shop and baking cakes and scones, you can make a living and have an income for yourself, by yourself.
My greatest hopes
With sparkles in her eyes, Kgabo shares her greatest hope “My greatest hopes are for the current collaboration and communication platforms that were created between public and public sector and government and public sector and private sector to remain. It has never been like this before. The engagement is amazing. This time around, the government is listening to the private sector. The private sector is listening to the government. So we have a mutual understanding and we working together use intelligence.”
Furthermore, Kgabo shares her hopes which is, “to see more Africans exploring their own country, because we’ve seen in the many years where people flying out of the country and people don’t know their own country. We have a wonderful country with lots of attractions, but they wouldn’t get in anywhere in the world. We need to be very positive to our own country and explore those hidden gems around the country.”
Kgabo finishes her story with this beautiful statement, “Let’s create a market for them so that they don’t make a comparison to say, if I have to pay five thousand rands to South Africa, I would rather go somewhere else. So we have to be very comparable in terms of our pricing as well to entertain and welcome our people.”
Kgabo Phaka spoke to Danielle Taute. View their #IAmTourism conversation here.