ATI 2024 Week Highlight – SA’s hospitality sector a gateway to employment

Don Mthethwa – The South African

ATI 2024 Week Highlight – SA’s hospitality sector a gateway to employment
Bongeka Ndlovu (left); Anitha Mtengenya (Centre); Gugu Masikane (Right) - SAT Crew

South Africa, Durban, is host to Africa’s Travel Indaba 2024 Edition, now enjoying the sterling accomplishment of surpassing it’s confirmed exhibitors target of 1100 to 1245 participating in this year’s instalment of the continent’s premier travel trade show.

The organizers believe this is a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of everyone involved in making Africa’s Travel Indaba the premier event it is.

Whilst this event boasts of exceptional merit to attracting tourists from around the world, South Africa as host country is grappled with a persistently high unemployment rate which the tourism and hospitality sector is seen to have the capacity to offer alternative routes to employment. South Africa is set to hold its seventh general elections on 29 May 2024.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Report (EIR) the South African Travel and Tourism sector contributes 6,3% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is projected to grow at an average rate of 7,6% over the next decade, anticipating the creation of more than 800,000 jobs to reach more than 1.9 million by 2032.

As ATI 2024 delegates imbue a sense of readiness to do business through their participation at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre (Durban ICC) trade floors, The South African had the pleasure to engage with business representatives. Alan Campbell, Sales and Marketing Director of ANEW Hotels and Resorts says the industry presents a wealth of opportunities that often go unrecognized, especially by matric students as a potential career path.

“The hospitality industry has perhaps historically been perceived amongst older generations to be an unstable and a less viable avenue as a career choice. However, the industry is healthy – international tourist arrivals from January to December 2023 totaling 8.5 million, representing a remarkable 48.9% increase when compared with the same period in 2022. This spike underscores the country’s enduring appeal as a premier travel destination,” says Campbell.

Umhlanga Oceans Development Chief Executive, Brian Mpono, described the key stakeholders in industry as opportunity enablers, and encouraged young people to reach out to the industry for access to employment and business opportunities available.

“The industry has vast opportunities where everybody gets to participate, that do not only depend on educational qualifications, however there are opportunities that embrace talent and the natural ability of Africans to produce from the works of their hands, as this reflects our innate ability to showcase what it means to be African. We must use that as a leverage and an advantage in addressing the white elephant which is the jobs (crisis), unemployment which likely (affects) youth of course,” Says Mpono.

Campbell added that “we’re witnessing a shift from an era where qualifications reigned supreme to one where practical skills and on-the-job learning take precedence. The hospitality industry welcomes newcomers with open arms, offering roles with minimal barriers to entry.”

He says the industry is one of the few where without prior experience one can carve a prosperous career, emphasizing that there is a clear gap in job creation and talent development, one that could be bridged through closer collaboration with high schools and educational institutions.

The appeal of the hospitality sector is not confined to those venturing on their careers straight out of matric. Campbell says that for those already studying or seeking to broaden their horizons, part-time roles within the industry offer a flexible avenue for financial independence and skill refinement.

“Whether waiting tables or managing reservations, students can seamlessly integrate theoretical knowledge with real—world application.”

South African Tourism CEO, Nombulelo Guliwe, said tourism is a catalyst for job creation and it is important for everyone in the ecosystem to be aware of the role they play.

According to tourism statistics noted by South African minister of Tourism, Minister Patricia De Lille, the tourism sector directly employed 459 533 persons in 2020 which was a decrease of 41,1% or 320 563 employees compared with 2019 – decreasing the tourism share of total employment from 4,8% in 2019 to 3,1% in 2020, which the minister attributed to the devastation of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The minister said her role is to drive greater implementation of the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, to drive destination development and marketing and accelerate efforts on all fronts to help the sector create more jobs.