Update from Cares Fund Recipient, Khwela Academy

Read below an update from Khwela Academy, one of the recipients of the first round of the Booking Cares Fund.

Kim joined us in Amsterdam for our 2-day session to represent Khwela Academy, a cutting-edge hospitality academy in South Africa for disadvantaged women. Through an intensive hospitality course, followed by a 3-week road trip through the country, students will build relationships and skills that will help them become tourism stars.


 Kim presenting Khwela Academy and Khwela Tourism Stars during the Booking Cares Fund kick-off.

Kim presenting Khwela Academy and Khwela Tourism Stars during the Booking Cares Fund kick-off.

Khwela applications kicked off in May, shortly after we returned from Amsterdam having collected the Booking Cares grant during an inspirational 2 days at Booking.com HQ with other Fund recipients.

We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications in the three week period (almost 500), which was partly due to our session with one of our Booking.com experts during the programme, Meredith, who had some excellent tips on how to make the process easier.

The team then started the tasks of evaluating applications and interviewing candidates, leading us to the decision to host four assessment days and invite over 140 young women. The format and interactions were well-planned out, and we received some expert coaching from Natalie, one of Booking.com's Global Learning Specialists, on how to best conduct the assessment days. After, we invited 35 young women for further interviews and personality testing. Eventually, 21 young women emerged and we began our Khwela learning course.

Khwela Means "to Climb" in isiXhosa, and our theory of change is that you can climb out of adverse situations if you are equipped with knowledge, confidence, a strong external network and learnt experience. The first component of the course was 8 weeks theoretical hospitality learning, taught through online video tutorials and online assessments.

 Attending lectures at the Booking.com Cape Town office, with guest visitor Angela Tilahun sharing her experience of working in hospitality in American and Namibia.

Attending lectures at the Booking.com Cape Town office, with guest visitor Angela Tilahun sharing her experience of working in hospitality in American and Namibia.

After the first days, we realized our biggest challenge was the venue: the internet speed was not sufficient, and the layout of the classroom was very poor. We had to pause the learning for a week, and find an alternative. In a panic, I called my mentor from Booking.com, Magdalena, and explained the story. She made a few calls, and by the end of the week, Khwela had found a new home in the regional Booking.com office in Cape Town.

The change in scenery was incredible. Our women were welcomed with open arms into the team. The venue was ideal as the large boardroom was spacious and well-laid out, and the learning was far quicker than before. The regional Booking.com office manager, Cindy, is amazing, and has been so welcoming.

The participants felt at ease, and were inspired by a presentation from some of the office staff about their journey in the tourism world and how they ended up working at Booking.com.

We have hosted weekly outings, to learn about tourism hands-on. These include wine tours, Cape Peninsula tours, inner city walking tours, a trip up table mountain, the aquarium. During these excursions, we've woven in daily reflections, critical incidents and other touch points where the ladies can start implementing what they have learnt online (for example wine tasting; upsetting skills; navigation etc.).

 At the top of Table Mountain.

At the top of Table Mountain.

Our participants are now on a three week road trip through South Africa where the they get to fully experience the best that this beautiful country has to offer. Every day in teams of two, the participants will guide the tour. They are responsible for everything from planning the days' activities to cooking, serving and cleaning up meals, researching the area and being the tour guide on the bus. They will receive practical training from one of the industry’s' best tour guides on how to add value on a tour: how to plan, underpromise and over-deliver. They will go from Cape Town to Johannesburg and even acquired passports in order to visit neighboring Swaziland’s famous Kruger park to go on a game drive. We believe this will open their eyes to the power of youth travel and the potential to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.

Additionally, we hosted an industry tourism event in Cape Town to send the ladies off and introduce them to industry partners. They had the chance to interact and make connections because when they return from the road trip in September, they will begin a six month internship in a tourism business.

Once a month, they will reconnect with their syndicate group at Khwela and check-in with our team. At the end of February 2018, they will graduate form Khwela and begin their careers in Youth travel.

We are really excited to be a part of their journey, and are very grateful to be partnered with the Booking Cares team. We look forward to the team visiting us here in Cape Town, especially Magdalena, who has been instrumental as a mentor in helping me wherever possible with valuable advice and connections.


We loved hearing Khwela’s update since the Booking Cares Fund in early May. More updates to come!

 Kim and her Booking.com mentor, Magdalena. 

Kim and her Booking.com mentor, Magdalena.