We Travel For Women+: Inge Akerboom, Birding Zambia
Live from: Zambia, Africa
I’m originally from The Netherlands, now happily settled in Zambia: the climate, the space, the people, the wildlife… what is there not to love? I started off working in conservation, now combining that passion for conservation with hospitality under my business, Birding Zambia.
I own Birding Zambia together with my husband Frank Willems; it’s a travel agency for birding safaris in Zambia. My husband Frank Willems is the bird expert and leading guide. We organize birding tours throughout Zambia and we have a Bushcamp in the North-Western province Mwinilunga. While Frank and other guides, chefs, drivers and camp attendants are out in the bush, I manage the office: client contacts, bookings, accounts … you name it.
After years of traveling ourselves, we started in conservation and hospitality 15 years ago in this amazing Zambian National Park called Kasanka, where, every year, millions of fruit bats gather. We managed Shoebill Camp in Bangweulu swamps and later Mutinondo Wilderness; it’s a great way to get to amazing places and meet the most interesting traveling people.
We operate in this industry as a couple and I feel no difference in support or representation between myself and my husband. We work with both female and male operators and lodge owners, and we work for female and male clients. I think I even deal with more female than male colleagues and clients! However, the representation of women on the ground, I mean the chefs, waiters, guides etc, can definitely be improved. You don’t see many ladies in these positions in Zambia.
I feel the travel industry is pretty emancipated and female-conscious except maybe for the jobs on the ground (in Zambia).
Of course, education is the best way to empower women so we should focus more on getting more young Zambian females – especially from rural communities – into hospitality training programs for them to become chefs, drivers, guides and so on. We are involved in such a project at the moment: the creation of a trade school for hospitality in the rural area of Mpika, Zambia.