To contribute to a more inclusive tourism industry, Matoke Tours developed a Female-Only Tour Guide Training & Mentored Internship Program, which gives aspiring female guides the best possible start for a career in tourism.
Since October 2021, a total of 31 young women have successfully graduated from the 6-month program and have gone on to pursue their careers in tourism, now well-equipped with the knowledge, practical skill and professional network needed to make it as a tour guide in the field.
In Uganda, female guides are dramatically underrepresented due to societal, cultural and economic barriers: traditional gender roles, perception of women as “the weak gender”, lack of support and funds for a professional training are just some of the factors. Although women make up the majority of the workforce in tourism, they often only have access to low-pay, seasonal jobs, without a prospect to advance their career.
Anna Grodzki, Managing Director and initiator of the program, shares:
“At Matoke Tours, we are proud to be a leader in sustainable tourism and this involves more than considering the environmental footprint of our tours; positive social impact and a more inclusive tourism industry are the values we stand for as a company. Every travel experience with Matoke Tours is crafted for our travelers to get an authentic insight into what makes this beautiful country special. But the picture is not complete if we leave out female voices and if we do not give women the opportunity to shape the destination narrative. The Female Tour Guide Training is much more for us than a CSR activity: For our all-female project team, this is a true passion project and we all strongly feel that we want to contribute to making a lasting difference in the industry.”
The Female Tour Guide Training kicked off under “Ukarimu”: the first open-source curriculum for tourism and hospitality training in Africa. This cooperation not only allowed us to have a wider reach and support to implement the training, but it also meant that the training content will be made available online and free of charge for anyone interested to get a first glimpse into what being a tour guide entails.
The training consists out of 4 weeks intense class-based training with a focus on developing the perfect tour guide skill-set, ranging from customer service and product knowledge to vehicle mechanics and bush first aid. The theoretical training is followed by a practical field training before the trainees start a mentored internship program over the course of 3 months, working together with senior tour guides and tour operators in Uganda. After completion of the program, the guides are assessed by the official tour guide association USAGA.
Connie Akol, Trip Administrator at Matoke Tours Africa, has been working with tour guides in the industry for well over 10 years and has seen an increase in training opportunities for women in recent years. “What makes our initiative stand out, is the practical “on the job” training and the support for trainees to build a professional network to potential employers.”
Pleunie van Uden-Kaweesi, Travel Consultant at Matoke Tours Africa, has accompanied and mentored the guides during their exposure trip around Uganda: “During the practical field training it was fascinating to experience how the female guides gained more confidence every day in claiming their space to share, and to actively take opportunities to tap into each other’s knowledge, have meaningful discussions with guides and rangers they met along the way, and to practice their guiding abilities. They didn’t fear to make mistakes while practicing, because they knew the group would have their back to correct them with valuable feedback, fully embracing the learning opportunity.”
The pilot Female Tour Guide Training and cooperation with Ukarimu has laid a solid foundation for our action plan to contribute to more gender equality in tourism. We are proud of each one of our graduates, who have the courage to believe in a bright future for themselves and the zeal to put in the hard work needed.
Adrine Nankunda, Project Coordinator of the Female Tour Guide Training experiences that this pilot has already made an impact for more women to show interest in pursuing a career in tourism: “The program has inspired many women to embrace opportunities within the tourism industry. Even though the pilot program has ended, I keep on receiving phone calls from aspiring female guides who wish to attend one of our programs. This encourages us to keep going and we hope to be able to create many more opportunities for them. Most graduates have gotten more training opportunities or are already on paid assignments in the field and employers are pleased with their level of knowledge and professionalism. With this change of perception, in just a few years from now, we will have a much higher percentage of female guides in the field compared to now.”
But we are also aware of how much more needs to be done to create more opportunities, space for more diversity and a safer work environment for female tour guides in Uganda. As Matoke Tours Africa we pledge to take up our responsibility as one off the leading DMC’s in Uganda and do our part to create a more inclusive tourism industry.
The Matoke Tours project team:
Pleunie van Uden-Kaweesi