We continue with our new feature focusing on women where we are introducing a new Women In Travel & Tourism Section. The idea was born from a desire to give exposure and a voice to more women in the hospitality, travel, and tourism industry. This section is for female business owners who feel that they have something that defines the industry and have to be seen by other players in what they are up to. The section will profile leading female voices making an impact in the industry. Women business owners are also free to send in requests to be interviewed or they can submit their profile articles with high-resolution images attached and a short biography. In this Q & A we bring you Ms Poppy Zinyana, founder of Ritsako Game Lodge, a leading game lodge and located in Dinokeng Game Reserve in Hamaanskraal, Pretoria, Gauteng.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Tell us your full name and surname and which city and province you were born?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: My name is Susan Poppy Zinyana, I was born and raised in Pretoria (Gauteng).
Nomad Africa Magazine : When did you found Ritsako Game Lodge?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: Ritsako Game Lodge was founded in 2017 and we officially opened for business in November 2018.
Nomad Africa Magazine: How many workers did you start with and how many did you have before Covid started?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: We initially started with 8 employees, we have since grown and managed to retain the current 22 employees throughout the Covid 19 outbreak.
Nomad Africa Magazine What was the motivation behind the lodge’s founding?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: My family and I fell in love with the Dinokeng Game Reserve when we first visited and I wanted to own property in this big-5 game reserve. I decided it would be a better idea to run a lodge, since I am based in Cape Town and create job opportunities for locals in the nearby vicinity of the lodge.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Tell us if you have qualifications in hospitality and tourism and where you obtained them and when?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: I don’t have any qualifications in hospitality. I own a guesthouse in Cape Town, it’s small and that’s where I got informal training and mentorship in hospitality and tourism through experts in the industry.
Nomad Africa Magazine: What has been your biggest achievement in the hospitality sector and why?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: It has to be winning the Provincial Lilizela award in our very first year of operation. It was an honour to receive such a prestigious award in the Tourism sector. The award motivated our team and it opened our eyes to what other products in tourism are doing in the country. South Africa has beautiful lodges.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Tell us some of the highlights of your lodge over the years?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: We are known to host the popular and only annual Wining in the Wild wine show in the Dinokeng Game Reserve. We have showcased our lodge at industry platforms such as Meetings Africa, Africa Travel Week and Indaba locally and we have also marketed the lodge internationally at IBTM Spain and SATTE in India.
Nomad Africa Magazine: In your opinion, what are the biggest hurdles you have faced / continue to face as a woman in hospitality and tourism?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: To change the perception that new emerging black women owned establishments in the travel and hospitality sector give an inferior service offering compared to their mostly white male counterparts that have been in the industry for a longer period of time. There is still a lack of women representation and our voices still need to be heard.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Do you think women in hospitality and tourism are receiving the right support from government, either in this time of Covid?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: I think we all could do with more assistance. Our businesses in hospitality were hit hard by Covid-19. There is a need for more initiatives that will promote and assist women in the hospitality industry. There are definitely challenges that are unique to women and it would be great to have platforms that will help us to overcome challenges.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Tell us your family life?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: I am a married mother of four girls and I live in Cape Town. Motherhood is the best thing that has happened to me. I enjoy spending time with my family especially on weekends when we have a braai and relax in our garden.
Nomad Africa Magazine: What is your personal goal as a tourism industry executive?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: To create jobs for our communities and to give young people work experience that will make them employable. I also want our establishments to be inclusive and accessible to our communities and to cater for their needs.
Nomad Africa Magazine: What motivates you to wake up every day?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: My family and the team that I work with.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Do you think more women are taking the initiative to venture into and are well represented in hospitality and tourism?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: Women are certainly infiltrating the sector but we could do with more representation. The sector is still male dominated.
Nomad Africa Magazine: What advice would you give to young or other women seeking to break through in hospitality and tourism?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: Don’t be intimidated by the idea of running a lodge or guesthouse. Start small. If a two-bedroom guesthouse is all you have, then start with that. There are South Africans out there who love to travel and who are ready to experience something different in South Africa. People will remember their experience at your establishment, so give them an experience they will never forget. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are people in this industry who are willing to offer their help and to share their experience.
Nomad Africa Magazine: Where do you see Ritsako Game Lodge in the next 5 years?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: We would like to build more rooms and employ more people.
Nomad Africa Magazine: How has your business responded to the effects of Covid 19?
Susan Poppy Zinyana: We have adapted to the prescribed industry sector protocols and try to be innovative with our offering for example we have changed our menu. Operational costs have increased with the purchase of PPE items such as sanitizer stations, protective gear for staff but we have maintained our standards and continue to give experiences in a relaxed environment.