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Nurturing young SA minds for tomorrow’s tourism success

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The Department of Tourism recently highlighted how crucial the tourism sector is for job creation and expects it to create over 800,000 jobs over the next decade. To help South Africa realise these projections, Cape Town Tourism (CTT), the official Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) for the City of Cape Town, has launched the Future Tourism Leaders initiative to equip young people with future tourism skills and enhance their employability.

Lisa-Ann Hosking, Chief Destination Officer at Cape Town Tourism, says South Africa’s tourism sector continues to recover from the pandemic’s impact, with the 2024 Travel and Tourism Development Index recording 6.4 million visitors to South Africa in Q1 of 2024.

“The latest South African tourism figures highlight the sector’s potential to drive economic growth and create meaningful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for our youth. Our Future Tourism Leaders initiative aims to help South Africa achieve all these goals by fostering the next generation of tourism professionals. We reach out to schools annually, prioritising those in underprivileged communities that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to such initiatives to ensure equal opportunity.”

Addressing SA’s critical skills gap

Cape Town Tourism foresees that the future tourism sector will require youth to possess practical knowledge of various tourism-related careers and entrepreneurial practices. It says they’ll also need an in-depth understanding of business management, marketing strategies, and customer engagement.

In collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Tourism Subject Advisors and industry leaders, the programme ensures its content is relevant and beneficial. The Tourism Subject Advisors help tailor the workshops at the start of each year, addressing academic requirements and practical industry needs.

Hosking adds, “Future tourism leaders’ ability to innovate and create unique experiences, coupled with a deep sense of city pride and community involvement, will be crucial. So, this initiative strives to instil these competencies through interactive workshops, direct industry engagement, and hands-on learning experiences, ensuring they are well-prepared for the evolving tourism landscape.”

Cape Town Tourism’s Future Tourism Leaders programme equips young people with these essential skills through two targeted interventions:

1.      The Future Leaders Workshops

The Future Leaders Workshops provide youth with first-hand tourism experience by connecting them with professionals and raising awareness about career opportunities within the sector. Cape Town Tourism partners with local high schools that offer tourism as a subject to host informative sessions for learners with a panel of industry stakeholders, including tour operators, transport providers, accommodation, and attractions.

“We focus on developing a positive mindset and an awareness of the opportunities in tourism,” says Hosking. “Our expert panellists highlight crucial attitudes and values such as flexibility, proactive communication, curiosity, problem-solving, and networking. These are the foundations for success in the industry.”

One of the key learnings from the first 2021 workshop is that most learners aren’t exposed to tourism activities. To address this, the workshops incorporate interactive quizzes that give away tourism experiences to learners, like an overnight hotel stay, shark cage diving, visiting Table Mountain or a City Sightseeing bus tour.

So far, the workshops have reached over 300 learners, and the Cape Town Tourism team have introduced 500 youth job seekers to tourism products actively seeking hires.

2. Building a sustainable tourism future

With continued support from the community and stakeholders, the programme aims to expand its reach and impact and continue contributing significantly to South Africa’s broader tourism goals.

Active participation from industry professionals and businesses is crucial. The programme also welcomes financial contributions to help refurbish tourism classes and old tourism material donations. These contributions help make learning environments more vibrant and representative of the industry.

Hosking concludes, “Cape Town Tourism’s Future Tourism Leaders initiative empowers our youth with the skills they need to succeed in the tourism industry. Through workshops, hands-on experiences, and mentorship, we hope to inspire the next generation of tourism professionals and entrepreneurs, grow our local economy and accelerate our sector’s growth.”

Schools interested in participating in the Future Leaders Programme can contact Matonie Tywakadi at matonie@capetown.travel.

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