Africa Travel Week

ATW Podcast

I fell deeply in love with travel

Aspirational Thembi took over as Head of George Airport and went on and became the first and youngest black female to manage an airport in South Africa. From here, her tourism career took off and was appointed as the Public Relations Officer for OR Tambo International Airport.

The adventure however had only started and has since she worked as an Executive at South Africa Tourism and as the CEO of brand South Africa. She is now the proud Chief Operating Officer at Tourvest.

How did you fall in love with travelling? 

As children growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto, we always used to look up whenever a plane flew past and we would scream some messages to all the passengers inside the plane to please not forget to bring us some sweets when they came back. We always thought a plane flying overhead was going ‘overseas’ which we understood was some exotic destination where all sort of sweets were freely available!

We always fantasized about our own travel and some unfortunate friend would have to be the “plane’ while we climbed on their back, pretending to travel ‘’overseas’’ to come back with the sweets. It is only when I joined the Airports Company SA in the early 1990’s that I got to truly understand what travelling was about. I fell deeper in love with travel. 

What kind of traveler are you? 

I am a very relaxed traveler. Planning is key for me and very stressful before I leave home.  But once I am inside an Uber, driving to the airport, I am already on holiday and in a relaxed mood. The Uber drive to the airport and Airport lounge is certainly the start of my holiday. 

Tell us about one of your most memorable trips? 

A very slow, leisurely 2-day drive to the Kruger Park with my beautiful husband as the chauffer. Our overnight stop in Hazyview was just the perfect introduction to a 5-day stay at the Singita Lebombo Lodge. Being suspended above the N’wanetsi River, surrounded by the most fabulous birdlife, exceptional quality of accommodation and world-class service from the Singita team definitely stands out on my bucket list.

What lessons have you learnt from your experience during COVID? 

I have learnt not to panic, to be deliberate in my engagements and take it one step at a time. As a typical big city girl, I was most surprised to learn that I have green fingers and have since taken to farming vegetables and herbs for my extended family.

Based on the five sense and thinking about travelling what do you: 

  • Like to see:  Views, views, views – don’t put me in a hotel room overlooking the parking! 
  • Like to taste: local foods.  Somehow, pasta in Italy tastes very different. 
  • Like to feel: carefree and spontaneous 
  • Like to hear: the chirping of birds when I wake up in the morning. 
  • Like to smell: clean, welcoming linen after a hard day of touring

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.