Home Travel News International Women’s Day 2022 – AN INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA MBENOUN

International Women’s Day 2022 – AN INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA MBENOUN

international women's day VANESSA Mbenoun
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8 min.

International Women’s Day 2022 is here, and it’s a great time to check how women are doing in the travel industry. Women’s place in the industry is strong. At the moment, over 75% of travel agents are women. However, certain career paths in the industry are still dominated by men, such as pilots and cruise officers.

Women are also more represented in service and clerical jobs than at professional levels. There is also an ongoing issue of the pay gap in certain sub-sectors. Nevertheless, we have been tracking women travel professionals in the last few years, and there are some exceptionally successful women in the sector which we can all look up to as role models

That’s exactly why we should use every opportunity to raise awareness about these topics in the travel industry. And what better day to do it than on International Women’s Day? 

For this special occasion, we’ve contacted Vanessa Mbenoun, based in South Africa, for an interview.

Who is Vanessa Mbennoun?

Vanessa Mbenoun is a recognized businesswoman in Africa’s tourism sector, and she has the Entrepreneurship Award from the African Tourism Leadership Forum to prove it. Here at Hotelmize, we discovered Vanessa when we were researching the best and most relevant podcasts in the travel industry

Vanessa is also the founder of the Podcast Tourism Entrepreneur Network, where professionals from different areas of the travel industry talk about trending topics like travel apps, sustainable tourism in Africa, or diversity and inclusion in the travel industry, among many others. She is a reference on many levels, as a C-level woman in the travel sector and helping her community not only on a local level but also by raising awareness on certain issues on a national and international level. Besides the podcast, Vanessa also launched or helped launch:


Her background and experience make this interview with Vanessa even more interesting! Let’s discover more about her interests and opinion on different topics that are relevant for anyone working in travel.

Here at Hotelmize, we directly work with Travel companies and Tours operators, that’s why we would love to know more about Kamaroutes. How did you decide to start this project?

Kamaroutes was an MBA project. The plan was to create a travel company, observe and understand the challenges small businesses in our industry face, and write a dissertation about it. I also thought if one day I wanted to go into business on my own, this would give me a solid basis. However, after setting up the company and creating a basic one-page website, I started receiving real travel requests, and clients were happy with my work. I left my travel consultant job six months later to focus on Kamaroutes full time.

As a female founder, what was the biggest challenge you’ve faced when starting your own business? How did you get over it?

The main problem for me is how tourism is still perceived in some African countries. Most people understand it generates quite a lot of money, but they don’t believe it is an industry where they should make serious investments, like tech, for instance. So funding remains the biggest challenge, and when you are a Black woman, it is even tougher: people don’t take you as seriously as your male counterparts. That’s why until now, I never seriously considered external funding before, and all my businesses were self-funded.

In 2021 you started “Solo Womxn,” a project that perfectly fits the topic of this article. Could you tell us more about this initiative of Kamaroutes?

Solo Womxn is a marketplace for women-only tours. It’s a project launched in 2019 under Kamaroutes, and because we got a lot more requests from solo female travelers, we decided to design a separate, more comprehensive platform. We are still working on it as we speak and hope it will be ready by the second semester this year. Just to give you an idea: more than 80% of solo travelers globally are women. Despite the pandemic and everything going on over the past couple of years, there’s been a 230% increase in travel companies dedicated to women-only tours. We want to team up with tour operators and property owners to create a platform where women will be able to book their flights, tours and accommodation, and everything in between in a few clicks. We are looking to launch in African destinations first because that’s where we are based and where the biggest gap is.

By Womxn, For Womxn: Solo Womxn experiences are planned, facilitated, or guided by local women. 

Kamaroutes focuses on crafting unique, authentic, fulfilling, and safe travel experiences for womxn in all their diversity.

You are also the founder of the Tourism Entrepreneur Network, the first global platform for travel and hospitality entrepreneurs. What strategies can help women achieve the success they want in their workplaces?

I think staying positive and resilient is a must: we are sometimes taken for granted, and our efforts go unnoticed, but that shouldn’t stop us. I am so happy to notice that women’s voices all over the world are being heard, there are more women in leadership roles than ever before, but the glass ceiling is still there. I am also happy to see more online networks, events, and initiatives that provide a safe space for female leaders to connect and put their resources together to change the world. We must not be afraid to cooperate; create products and businesses that address our needs and solve our issues. I am still working on setting up an incubator for African women in tourism; it is more difficult than I thought, but I will not give up; we need this.

You received the Entrepreneurship Award from the African Tourism Leadership Forum for your outstanding work in Africa’s travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?

The ATLF award you just mentioned was one of my most significant achievements because it came from an African tourism institution, and being recognized by my peers was just wonderful. In August last year, Kamaroutes was chosen by Enpact and the TUI foundation to join their 2021 tourism recovery program, together with 79 other South African businesses. After the workshops, they selected four businesses to join them from the 10th March in Berlin. We are one of them, and this is a massive opportunity for us.

Vanessa received the African Tourism Leadership Award in 2019.

Could you mention other women who have inspired you during your career?

Oh, the list is long, but I’ll just name a few, starting with my mom, who’s been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, my sister Maria who is also my co-director at Kamaroutes and an award-winning programmer. Of course, the phenomenal Judy Kepher-Gona from the STTAgenda in Kenya and Natalia Rosa from Big Ambitions Marketing supported me from the beginning. Lastly, my favorite “tourism partners,” Phakamile Hlazo and Nnenna Fakoya-Smith, will be launching the first episode of the tourism entrepreneur podcast this year on the 15th of March.

Could you give us a motto that inspires you?

My parents always encouraged me and taught me to follow my dreams. My daughter is 4, and when she tells me who/what she wants to be when she grows up, I tell her that she can be whoever she wants, and no one can stop her. That’s also what I tell myself when I feel overwhelmed because I believe as human beings, we are that powerful: if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Final words

The position of women in the travel industry is currently evolving fast. Many travel companies are working on equality, and raising awareness about important issues featuring success stories such as Vanessa’s is essential. 

Vanessa perfectly captures the current situation in the travel industry in Africa, “I would like Kamaroutes to be known and remembered as a tour company founded by an African, Black woman, in times where being African, black, and a woman was seen by many as a disadvantage.”

Vanessa is definitely inspiring other women in the travel sector to aspire towards achieving something great despite being at a disadvantage.

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Mize is the leading hotel booking optimization solution in the world. With over 170 partners using our fintech products, Mize creates new extra profit for the hotel booking industry using its fully automated proprietary technology and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue across its suite of products for its partners. Mize was founded in 2016 with its headquarters in Tel Aviv and offices worldwide.

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