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Sunday, April 14, 2024

An Interview with Lavonne Wittmann, Skål International World President (2018-2019)

Lavonne Wittmann, Skål International World President (2018-2019)

She also served on the board of directors for the CCBC (Capital City Business Chamber) in charge of the tourism portfolio as well as on the board of ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agents) Region 1 for 3 years and on the advisory committee for the University of Pretoria’s Travel and Tourism Honours students. She attained her status with CATHSETA (Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Education and Training Authority) as a facilitator, assessor and moderator and is a qualified professional Life Coach with ProRep Academy.

Lavonne was one of the founding members of ITAC which later formed part of the South African Airways Travel Center Travel Consortium and served on the Mayoral Committee of Tshwane.

A multiple award winner, Lavonne achieved a post graduate diploma in Tourism Management and Development through Buckinghamshire University College in United Kingdom. Her passion for tourism promotion, humanitarian services and global advocacy for women empowerment, gender equality, as well as the upliftment of women in their personal and professional lives, cannot be over emphasized enough.

A mother of two daughters and a loud and proud breast cancer survivor, Lavonne enjoys the arts, stage, and music and is busy with becoming proficient in Spanish. Her uniqueness and exuberant personality combined with God-given talents skyrocketed her to many opportunities that enabled her to hold exciting positions in different fields of business and tourism.

In an exclusive interview with African Development Magazine, the well-travelled Lavonne discussed her position as the President, her achievements and advocacy in tourism, visits to each continent of the globe this year and many more points.

Below are excerpts:

As the Skål International President, what are your major responsibilities, achievements and how has your position impacted on the organization?

The Principle role of the World President is to manage and provide leadership to the Board of Directors of Skål International. The President is accountable to the board and acts as direct liaison between the executive board and the management of Skål| International through the CEO.

The President also acts as the communicator for executive board decisions where appropriate and should be independent from management and free from any interest and any other business or other relationships which could interfere with the Presidents independent judgment and ensures that there is transparent communication to the members about activities, also presides over all meetings of the executive board as well as General Assemblies, and supervises duties of the board and the general secretariat.

The role also has to provide advice and counsel to the CEO, while keeping abreast of the activities of Skal International and its management, and to ensure that directors are properly informed so that they can form appropriate judgments.

 What have you done differently in your tenure as present Skål International President?

My Presidential theme this year has been “STRENGTH THROUGH COLLABORATION” and that is exactly what has done by leading the 14,500 members globally to work together as a team to reach success, a fragmented organization will not be successful or a be a leading light in the industry if we do not work together.

We each have our own strength and abilities as well as language, culture and beliefs but when we network with shared passions and understand that we can access different talent, expertise and knowledge from the different members, we have a winning recipe.

Skal was founded in 1932 and still exists, does it mean the government, corporate organization or multinationals companies has been funding it sustenance?

Skal International has always been self-funding and because of strict fiscal procedures, membership fees and sponsorships the organization has never depended on any funding from Governments and International companies to survive.

Throughout history there have been numerous cases of xenophobic attacks in many countries, the recent one been in South Africa where Nigerians were affected, how does this affect tourism?

Xenophobic attacks or any violent attacks will always affect tourism adversely and Skal International will always add their support, knowledge and advice to the related parties but we are not a political organization.

In tourism, we have different genres of tourism like educational tourism, religious tourism, medical tourism etc, which tourism category can Africa be effective in?

Africa like any continent will attract many types of tourism, the latest trend is experiential tourism whereby the tourists wants to add value to the places they visit as well as be part of the local culture and I am confident that tourism in Africa will appeal to this tourism sector.

What are the challenges you faced while been involved in the travel and tourism business and how did you overcome them?

Travel and tourism is an industry like so many other industries that are affected by political, social, economic and technological challenges and as human beings and workers in this industry you have to overcome these challenges or leave the industry. My biggest challenge as a retail travel agent was that the success and enjoyment of your client’s travels booked with you, always depended on so many parties that you did not have control of your own sale.

You have visited many countries, what would you advise the African leaders on tourism?

Safety in Africa must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Travellers will only travel to places they feel safe in.

You visited Nigeria for the first time, launched Skal International Port Harcourt club, and inducted new members; tell us your experience during your stay in Nigeria?

My experience in Nigeria was filled with warmth and hospitality and I had the privilege to meet the most incredible captains of industry who are all well-travelled and knowledgeable as well as passionate about the travel industry and their country. This was my first visit to Nigeria and it will not be my last

African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their cultureWhat do you like about African Culture?

African people inherently have a warm, loving nature which suits the hospitality and travel and tourism industry. They embrace travellers and are always willing to share their love of their country and their continent, their knowledge and share the beauty of their continent. That to me is the USP (Unique selling point) of Africa…the people

You have travelled extensively this year as World President, kindly share your amazing moment and countries visited?

During my term as World President I have travelled to each continent of the globe and enjoyed 155 flights in 12 months. Each country I have visited has had their unique experience, people and culture and this year will be etched in my memory forever.

In terms of its geographical size, population and economy, Nigeria is a force to be reckoned with in Africa and the continent’s biggest economy, Nigeria has undergone many changes in recent years. Yet there are some fundamental challenges which still remain and need to be overcome before it can fully realize its economic potential which tourism is the part of it, what would you do to revolutionaries tourism in Nigeria ?

Again my answer would be safety for travellers, and enhance and improve the infrastructure of roads, airports and tourism attractions.

Source: African Development Magazine.

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