A lot has been said about the Botswana tourism industry, which is, to a large extent, race controlled and when Batswana participate, it becomes a male dominated affair.
However, women are beginning to trickle into the industry as seen by the owner of Youth Travel Tours and now Wapula Pule-Matshambane, who runs Footprints Africa Safaris.
The tour operator acknowledges the dominance of the two groups, but she says the best weapon is to strategise.
“I am doing things a step at a time,” she told Sunday Standard on the sidelines of Indaba 2010.
“It is all about the service to sustain the activities,” she added.
Footprints Africa Safaris focuses on corporate travel, transport hire, weekend gateways and tours to the No 1 Ladies Detective movie set.
The company also conducts cultural tours and air tickets/accommodation reservations.
Pule-Matshambane started coming to the Indaba in 2007 as an individual roving around the stalls.
“Looking at the advantages of government policies, Batswana can make it in the industry,” she stated.
According to her, the Indaba provides a link with tourists from abroad, especially exhibiting under the auspices of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO).
“There are opportunities of referrals. It is a great advantage to exhibit under BTB (now BTO,” she said.
Her current market is diverse, coming from international, regional and domestic travelers.
Surprisingly, Pule-Matshambane says the ‘local market is very supportive’.
“I have locals who travel to the local destinations,” she stated. She added that this cuts across classes, but they are mostly people from the middle class.
This is surprising because other tour operators have bemoaned little domestic travel as most people say the undiversified Botswana market is expensive.
Instead, locals prefer other destinations like Durban, Swakopmond, Cape Town and Mozambique.
She also does city and beach holidays in the SADC area.
Pule-Matshambane has also advised travelers to utilise the services of tour operators because they have access to suppliers, rather than doing it as an individual.
“Batswana must utilise us as tour operators to prime destinations. We are the key,” she advised adding that the advantage is that they will have the local and SADC rates for regional clients.
She describes herself as a hospitality person having worked for Air Botswana for over three years in the Commercial Division.
The 32-year-old started the company with her own cash although she received backing from the Kickstart programme, an initiative of Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL).
She has studied at Boston City College in South Africa and Garankuwa Hotel School.