UJ STH student wins top prize at 2019 World Tourism Forum

​Top achiever, Master of Tourism and Hospitality student and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), Ms. Refiloe Lekgau, has won the prestigious Young Talent Award at the World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL) 2019.

WATCH: Refiloe Lekgau unpacks her research paper in wild toruism: https://vimeo.com/310564621

The 6th World Tourism Forum Lucerne, took place on the 2nd and 3rd May in Lucerne, Switzerland. The event brought together the world’s leading tourism, travel and hospitality role-players and provided decision-makers with in-depth insight into key tourism issues.

The Young Talent Programme is one stream of the WTFL agenda whose goal is to help foster the exchange of expertise between generations within the industry. This programme connects CEOs with young talent through partnerships with universities around the world.

The University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality is one of the WTFL’s 27 partner universities. The STH has been attending the Forum since 2012.

The stringent selection process began in 2018, where the academic committee of the WTFL was tasked with selecting the most promising abstracts out of over 70 outstanding applications. 40 students of the partner universities were eligible to send a full paper for the double-blinded peer-reviwed process which was due in November 2018. Out of these candidates, 20 students were asked to do a Learning Agility Test, following which 12 of the most talented students were selected to attend the Forum and present a poster of their research.

Ms. Lekgau’s presentation was based on her research paper titled “Perceived Socio-economic Impacts of Wildlife Tourism”. During the Forum, three winners of the Young Talent Award were evaluated and awarded in a ceremony.

Commenting on her achievement, Ms. Lekgau said: “Winning this award is currently my biggest achievement as it is testimony to the long and strenuous hours, hard work and determination put forth both by myself and supervisor Professor Tembi Tichaawa”. She added that attending the main event was an insightful experience as she had an opportunity to listen on the current issues in global tourism, as well as meet senior travel experts and high-level executives in the industry.

Professor Tichaawa, who also attended the Forum alongside STH Director, Dr. Diane Abrahams emphasized that the Forum not only provided valuable content but also great opportunities to network with peers from other academic institutions and industry leaders.

“As supervisor to Refiloe, it was an amazing experience to see one of the young talent you are nurturing taking first place as the best young talent of the WTFL. I am particularly thrilled that such an accolade is not only testament to her academic prowess and the work we do at the STH, but equally a motivation for other young talents from the African continent to take their work to the global stage”, said Professor Tichaawa.

Dr. Abrahams said: “We are truly proud of Refiloe’s achievement. It will go on to inspire many of her peers. In addition, this award really goes to reaffirm the STH’s position as a top-rated institution not only in the African context, but globally, producing kind of young professionals who are bound to achieve great things in the industry”.

The winners all received Lucerne branded Carl Bucherer watches and zip lining tickets for the Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates which is the longest zip line in the world. Refiloe maintains that her career goal is to continue working in academia.

“Winning this award has enhanced the journey rather than shifted its course. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to not only participate in this program, but to meet the other brilliant minds that made it to the final round. Winning this award is monumental to both my personal and career journey”, says Refiloe.


Refiloe Lekgau
From left – Prof Tembi Tichaawa, Refiloe Lekgau, and Dr Diane Abrahams at the 6th World Tourism Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland.
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