Lucille Sive, CEO of The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) Africa Division and president of affordable luxury safari operator, Lion World Travel, discusses the company’s strategy in adapting their African safaris during an unpredictable pandemic atmosphere.
Born in South Africa, Sive helped close the gender gap for female leaders in the travel industry after becoming the first woman executive in North America for TTC (outside of the Tollman family, who founded the company).
Observing International Women’s Day this month, we explore Sive’s 35-year journey of becoming a female executive in the travel industry, her dedication to women empowerment and promoting gender parity across the globe. Coincidentally, Sive shares her birthday with International Women’s Day on March 8.
Sive’s passion and support for African tourism is emulated through her heavy involvement in community projects, a majority of which help uplift women’s livelihoods in Africa. Since joining TTC, Sive and her team have partnered with ten charitable organizations.
Where did you start in the travel industry and how did you become CEO of TTC’s Africa division?
A few months after arriving in Canada in 1982, I joined Lion World Travel in a marketing capacity. At the time it was a small company with just five employees, and after a year I had risen to a managerial position. The owner eventually asked me to run the company and a few years later (in 1998), I bought Lion World Travel with a partner.
Over the past 35 years our amazing team has helped me to build Lion World into one of the leading affordable luxury African safari companies in North America. I’ve always taken a very hands-on approach to running the company and setting the standard for our team’s commitment to the highest levels of service excellence. In 2016, I was appointed CEO of The Travel Corporation’s Africa Division.
What separates Lion World Travel apart from other Africa specialists?
I think what separates us is that we specialize only in travel to Africa. We also own many of the tour and travel companies within Africa, which gives us a strong Africa presence. This gives us a distinct advantage in negotiating rates so that we can offer 5-star, affordable luxury safari vacations. We also have strong and positive relationships with hotels and safari lodges and our offices in Africa means that we offer 24/7 support.
What traits do you feel define a successful leader in the travel industry?
I think it takes passion about the product, being very hands on, a bit of tenacity and also caring about your staff. I also think it’s all about 5-star service and always remembering that when making decisions.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced during the pandemic?
This pandemic has been difficult for everyone and one of biggest challenges I’ve faced is trying to find the happy medium between being positive and realistic with staff. It’s been challenging trying to motivate staff all the while being honest about the reality of this pandemic. One thing I try to do is offer as much support to my team as I can during this time by being accessible and showing appreciation and recognition whenever I can.
What innovations or adjustments has Lion World Travel made to accommodate clients for future travel?
The well-being of our clients has always been our top priority. We have introduced and enhanced well-being and hygiene protocols for our clients and our team members while still allowing our guests to experience a memorable safari. This includes thorough cleaning of accommodations, disinfecting safari vehicles and adapting dining experiences to provide more personal space and a la carte dining options. Readily available sanitizer is also utilized throughout the safari experience and our local safari guides are trained to monitor and follow proper hygiene etiquette for our guests.
At Lion World Travel, we’ve also researched where clients can take their PCR COVID-19 tests while on safari how much it costs and how it can be scheduled within their itinerary so that the experience is a seamless one and doesn’t detract from their safari vacation.
What do you consider your greatest successes as CEO?
I think the fact that we’ve been able to partner with many different projects ranging from immersive volunteer opportunities, rhino conservation and local community development. I’m so proud of being able to partner with various community and conservation initiatives in Africa, especially all of the women’s projects that we’re able to support. All of our Lion World’s client gifts are made by women in Africa and range from handmade masks, handmade beaded items, cookies and more.
Can you discuss more about these community projects? Which one is your favorite and why?
It’s hard to choose just one, but a community project that’s special to me is Uthando—a unique non-profit organization which raises funds for life-changing community development programs in Cape Town. There’s something about Uthando that spoke to my heart. Many of the projects by Uthando, which means “love” in Xhosa, help disadvantaged women in the Khayelitsha township gain skills and earn income. They are also taught how to run a business so that it is all about sustainability.
Another significant project is our support of local Maasai women’s organizations made up of single mothers and widows. These women are so talented at creating beautiful brightly colored triple layer masks and beadwork crafts, such as bracelets and coasters. We purchase their masks and beadwork as gifts for our guests. It helps these women immensely as they can work from home while taking care of their family, who benefit from food and clothing with the money that they earn.
What advice would you give to women aspiring to move up the travel business ladder?
My advice would be to work hard and make mistakes. I think a lot of times, women are afraid to make mistakes and so this holds them back, but I think that making mistakes, owning them and taking responsibility, only allows you to learn from it and grow.