Cape Town - South Africa is a hot favourite for tourism globally - not only because of the immaculate and unique experiences our country offers - but mostly because of the people who make SA great.
Case in point is Alushca Ritchie, proudly South African tourist guide who has just been appointed as the new president of the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations, held at the 17th biennial World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations Convention in Tehran, Iran.
SEE: SA strengthens tourism ties with Islamic republic of Iran
'An oenophile of note'
Ritchie, a registered tourist guide for the Western Cape, has been a wine specialist for the last six years. She is, as she puts it, an "oenophile and coffee lover of note, as well as a complete bibliophile an avid foodie".
For her, it is South Africa's food that she loves introducing visitors to, mostly. "Our huge array of different ways to eat, things to eat and places to eat at are all unbelievably diverse," she says.
It's no wonder she points to SA's iconic Route 62 - the longest wine route in the world - as her favourite spot in SA. "It lies very close to my heart. It has plenty to offer - different landscapes, different cultures and plenty of undiscovered opportunities."
SEE: SA's Route 62 listed among the World's best Road Trips - here's why
She spends her days sharing this love for South Africa with the world, but says one must be prepared for things to go wrong.
'The gift of travel'
Despite things going wrong sometimes, Ritchie says she loved the fact that no one day is the same as the next. "The people, the sights, the experiences and the challenges always differ".
And this ensures an eye-opening insight into not only SA, but the world.
"The gift of travel has exposed me to a multitude of countries and cultures and this allows me to say that we are such a diverse country - it's truly something special. Arriving home from an international trip always warms ones soul," she says.
And while a life of travel might seem glamorous, it's also a very tough industry, and an occupation that often goes unacknowledged.
"Unfortunately, even though Tourist Guides are the 'face' of a visitors experience, they are not always acknowledged as such. The hours are very long, the financial reward sometimes minimal and one always has to remain positive and smiling no matter what," she says.
Luckily, the people who dedicate their lives to showing off the best SA has to offer are always energetic and positive individuals.
Taking SA to new heights
Ritchie owns and manages a tourism business and has served as the Chairperson of the Cape Tourist Guides Association, a director on the Cape Town Tourism Board and as the Western Cape Representative of the South African Travel Services Association.
She legally qualified as a part-time Tourist Guide in 2008 while working a 'desk job' in the Structural Engineering Sector. "With a passion for wine, my city and travel," however, the desk job couldn't satisfy her appetite for life and travel.
"I couldn't resist the opportunity of introducing our country to visitors," she says.
Nine years on, she says it was never her intention to become involved in the 'administration' aspect of Tourist Guiding. It was a need for this administrative role in South Africa that made her fill the gap.
"It taught me a great deal when dealing with Tourist Guiding issues in South Africa," she says. And going forward, sitting in a forum that is Internationally respected and acknowledged, it "will allow me to gain insight into the actual Tourist Guiding industry, its needs and its success stories on an International scale.
"This knowledge and assistance to countries in need of direction is absolutely imperative."
SA's big tourism influencers, including the likes of our Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, have congratulated Ritchie on her appointment saying that she has made SA proud.
“This presents another opportunity for us to elevate the status of the guiding profession and to acknowledge the important role that our tourist guides play in providing superb visitor experiences," he says.
Ritchie agrees, saying she looks forward to representing all tourist guides on an international platform. "This will be a great opportunity to learn and to promote a sector which is very rarely recognised as a profession, although it is an integral component of the tourism value chain.”
The World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations is a not-for-profit, non-political organisation comprising tourist guide associations, individual tourist guides, educational institutions and other members who have a direct or indirect association with tourist guides. It is an Affiliate Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
The President of WFTGA serves for a two-year term and is supported by an Executive Board made up of delegates from Australia, Iran, USA, Canada and UK.
The convention was attended by about 350 participants and delegates from over 40 countries.
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