Tourism is a vital part of South Africa’s GDP and public image. According to the Department of Tourism, tourists spent more than R25 billion on our shores in the first quarter of the year. With the country’s official unemployment rate currently standing at 32.6%, the tourism industry is in a unique position to help alleviate this. It is estimated that the sector will contribute 800,000 jobs and R287 billion to the national economy. In a country with the highest income inequality in the world, these kinds of numbers highlight tourism’s ability to help narrow that gap.
Samantha Williams, Commercial Director at Profitroom says, “Tourism is one of the most important sectors in South Africa having contributed 3.7% to the country’s GDP employing about 4.7% of the workforce. Going forward it's poised to play a pivotal part in South Africa’s economic growth and by extension, help empower millions.”
The hospitality industry is currently going through a purple patch. During the first quarter of the year, the country welcomed more than double the amount of visitors it had during the same period last year and current estimates have it contributing almost one million jobs by the end of the decade. A healthy tourism industry does wonders for local communities. South Africa’s world-renowned flora and fauna attracts hotels and guests to more remote parts of the country. When hotels partner with the communities they are in to offer visitors access to activities in and around the community, this helps much needed revenue circulate around the community while also giving visitors a more well-rounded experience.
Providing opportunities within organisations is the first step toward balancing the scales. For the hospitality industry to maintain its growth it must actively create opportunities for a diverse section of its workforce to learn and grow. Research has shown that companies with diverse boards and staff compliments tend to outperform companies that do not have diverse teams by a big margin. The first step toward reaping these benefits is by attracting and retaining the right staff. Research indicates that 86% of millennials would be more likely to stay in their current job if their employer offered training and development opportunities. Additionally, 34% of employees who left their previous jobs did so because they were seeking better career development prospects. By empowering staff with the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world, the hospitality industry can ensure better staff retention rates and improved service.
Michael Puffett, senior business development manager at Profitroom says, “The tourism industry experienced significant employee losses during the pandemic and while it has recovered somewhat, there is still a staff shortage that makes training more important than it has ever been. Empowered staff attract and retain visitors and do not need to be micromanaged, which is crucial when operating in understaffed environments.”
He added that, in some hotels, we are beginning to see what can happen when hoteliers ignore training. “Thanks to a lack of training and understaffing, there are instances where staff at hotels are directing customers to book stays with online travel agencies rather than directly through the hotel, which is negatively impacting the hotel’s profitability.”
Training builds trust, improves service, and empowers staff to make decisions that benefit the business. Furthermore, platforms like Coursera and Skillshare help make this process more affordable. Upskilling employees is not just important for specific businesses but for the industry and country as a whole. For example, parts of South Africa are prone to natural disasters, and having a skilled labour force allows communities and companies to bounce back faster. Better skilled employees can find better jobs quicker and the businesses they serve benefit from their skills. In short, everyone wins when ordinary South Africans are empowered to do more.