Skills gap hampers tourism growth – Tourvest

South Africa’s tertiary educational institutions and other skills development initiatives are still not producing the work-ready candidates required to meet South Africa’s tourism potential, says Martin Wiest, chief executive of Tourvest’s Destination Management(TDM) division.

TDM is the largest company in South Africa’s inbound leisure travel segment and is responsible for bringing around 100 000 tourists to South Africa shores each year. Wiest says tourist arrivals continue to grow year on year, attracting more than 10 million tourists every year with more than 2 million of these being high-value long-haul visitors.

tourist photo

Photo by Billingham

“Government has identified the tourism industry as a high priority sector growth driver that it is labour-intensive and has the ability to extend its reach into areas untouched by traditional industrial development, positively impacting the livelihoods of people living in largely rural communities,” he says. “One in ten people are currently employed by the industry and ambitious plans are in place to create another 225 000 jobs in tourism by 2018,” Wiest says.

However, according to Wiest, the current tourism curriculum is not standardised and is not meeting the needs of employers. He says more needs to be done to ensure that available tourism courses cover the necessary skills required to make graduates attractive in the marketplace and to stay up-to-date with the demands of today’s industry. “A poor service ethic and ‘soft skills’ by graduates are areas of concern as are a lack of computer skills and foreign languages,” he says.

Wiest says that more companies in the tourism and hospitality sectors should have their own skills development initiatives and that government-initiated programmes, such as the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sports Sector Education Authority’s (CATHSETA) learnership programme, are being under-utilised.

“Tourvest is an accredited training provider with CATHSETA and has been running learnerships for over a decade, during which time 200 learners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds have completed an NQF level-5 course in general travel and tourism with some 80% of these learners finding employment within the group. In addition, several of these learners have progressed into management and senior consulting positions,” he says.

Author: Muzi Mohale

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