CEO Viewpoint: Unite To Empower Youth in Tourism

03 July 2014
CEO Viewpoint: Unite To Empower Youth in Tourism

The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) is aimed at making South Africa one of the top 20 destinations in the world by 2020. In terms of the strategy, South Africa aims to create 225 000 new jobs by 2020 while increasing tourism's contribution to the economy from R189-billion ($2.272-billion) in 2009 to R318-billion ($3.822-billion) by 2015 and R499-billion ($5.996-billion) by 2020. The tourism sector is widely regarded as a key driver of economic growth, job creation, poverty alleviation and community upliftment.


Tourism has the potential to curb youth unemployment and gear the upcoming youth with a skill set for the tourism and hospitality sectors as they are our future leaders. A greater concerted effort has to be put in place in order to combat youth unemployment, especially among graduates. This includes the retention of small to medium size tourism enterprises. Many SMME businesses do not receive enough assistance to remain sustainable and therefore youth lose places where they are able to learn practical skills as well as to remain employed. It is estimated that SMME’s employ almost three quarters of the unemployed in South Africa.


As per the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSEATA) the hospitality industry for example is made up of a broad category of fields within the service industry. This is a several billion dollar industry that is dependent on the availability of leisure time and disposable income. The hospitality industry is a diverse one, including a wide range of services related to food, accommodation, entertainment, and recreation. The sector is largely dominated by Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs), most of which are owner managed businesses, with the owner playing a significant role in the day-to-day running of the business.


There are a number of interventions implemented by private sector, associations and government such as those by CATHSEATA which set out to bridge the gap between the study and work environment. Skills Development initiatives through CATHSEATA include amongst others learnerships that are aimed at addressing a specific niche area of skills sets, Internships within organisations which equip students with practical experience as wells as skills programmes and bursaries.  Private sector and government can benefit from these initiatives as well by signing up their business to accept the students providing the youth with growth opportunity while increasing the human capital of their business.


To capacitate the youth with a unique and valuable skill set has become important to many who embrace and implement the national standards of Responsible and Sustainable Tourism. The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) also has many fine examples such as their Food Safety programme initiated with the Department of Tourism which specifically targets FET colleges and assists to create a career path within the industry. Students are placed within hotels in positions of Food Service Assistants for a 12-month period to assess and monitor food safety issues within the hotels’ food preparation, storage and service processes.



A great opportunity that we encourage youth to participate in is the annual National Tourism Careers Expo (NTCE). The NTCE which runs from 2 to 4 October 2014 at the East London ICC, is a partnership event under the auspices of the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency (ECPTA), an agency mandated to tourism & bio diversity management, National Department of Tourism (NDT), the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) and CATHSSETA. The interactive exhibition is designed to showcase the exciting career opportunities available in tourism and hospitality and is expected to attract over 10 000 learners, tourism students, graduates and educators during the three days.



For international experience and growth youth are motivated to apply for the South African Youth Exchange (SAYX). This is a youth program of the Ubuntu Institute in partnership with Awesome Travel that has been facilitating work and internships abroad for the last 8 years on programs ranging from 6 – 12 months. They have secured funding to give hospitality students, recent graduates and non-graduates with work experience, an opportunity of a lifetime by applying for a bursary to go overseas on an international cultural exchange programme. The funding is through Ubuntu Institute, which is a youth focused organization.


It is important that government, private sector, NGO’s and youth organizations combine efforts to empower youth with the overall aim of contributing to increased national economic growth and poverty reduction. The tourism and hospitality sector is so diverse that it cross pollinates into multiple other sectors of the economy therefore creating growth and rejuvenating potential across all sectors with direct and indirect impacts. Creativity, talent and skills sets are abundant within our destination and growth within the tourism and hospitality sector through large events such as the upcoming International Film Festival and other activities and attractions will enable our province to retain existing human capital and create opportunities for youth.



Young entrepreneurs should not feel excluded as they have many organisations they can approach for guidance and funding opportunities. Young entrepreneurs could develop future tourism products, attractions and activities that could assist to set our destination above the rest. Support can be sourced from East Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) who assists with forming and managing co-operatives or the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) who help to start, manage and grow a small business.


While the tourism industry has tremendous potential to create jobs, it is also important to acknowledge that appropriate skills and experience are necessary to facilitate employment growth as well as international competitiveness. This is why we motivate participation in initiatives such as the above mentioned. As industry we are all able to contribute to the empowerment of our youth which simultaneously empowers our destination. It is up to us to unite and liberate our future, the youth, who will carry the legacy of Responsible Tourism that is being entrenched in our country.