Enver Duminy: According to StatsSA, South Africa’s unemployment rate is high for both youth and adults; however, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15–34 was 38,2%, implying that more than one in every three young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018.
Some of these young people have become discouraged with the labour market and they are also not building on their skills base through education and training – they are not in employment, education or training (NEET). That's a massive gulf that's further exacerbated by the need for transformation. What's the solution?
A lost generation
Those who are unemployed are not simply facing a few weeks, or even months, of joblessness, they may be out of work for years at a time, placing a strain on their extended families, often one employed individual, who must support them.
The tourism sector has had a rough period for the past six months and is facing a period of recovery. According to Grant Thornton, the year-to-date figures for 2018 show that overseas arrivals are down 1.5%, while arrivals from the rest of Africa are up 5%. Total tourist arrivals are up more than 3%. The sector contributes 2.9% of SA’s GDP. '
In 2016 total employment in South Africa (both formal and informal) amounted to 15,8 million workers. Of these, 4,4% (or 1 in every 23) were directly employed in the tourism sector, a rise from the 3,8% recorded in 2005.
There are no guarantees that there will be growth, but both the public and private sector are pulling out all the stops to see the tourism industry forging ahead with sustainable development at its foundations.
As a sector, tourism is different to, say, mining or agriculture – it’s woven in and out of other industries, including retail, construction and manufacturing, and is hugely influential on the food and beverage sectors. While large enterprise hospitality organisations such as hotel groups dominate the formal tourism sector, there are countless SMEs scrambling to gain access to the marketplace, some successfully, others ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of seasonality and fluctuations in the economy.
That said, there’s a sense of warmth and support that comes through the tourism sector: we want to see each other thriving, and this is reflected in the many programmes available to aid young people in gaining skills and training.
A large hotel group such as Protea Hotels by Marriott, for example, provides access to employment and study each year. Armed with little more than a CV, a young person may get an entry level job at one of the properties, and then join a programme of mentorship that sees them gaining access to tertiary education and increased opportunities for advancement within the company.
Likewise, government also provides training and bursary programmes. It’s not just the big guns doing this, small SMEs provide an essential opportunity for community-based skills development and access to employment or self-employment.
Cape Town Tourism’s Board Development Fund (BDF) is one of many opportunities for young entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in the industry. The BDF was created by the board to provide access to mentorship and practical resources to historically disadvantaged businesses in 2013. The BDF has subsequently provided such practical support to two to three businesses every year.
An example could be Proudly Macassar Pottery run by Johan de Meyer, that offers a unique clay experience that is immersive and distinctly cultural in nature. While the business had moderate success on its own, as a BDF recipient, its scope has been broadened. This initiative also provides many opportunities for the local community including training for young people, so its transformative impact is immediate.
The seasonal nature of tourism means that upskilling and diversifying is essential for tourism professionals to ensure sustainability in employment in an ever-evolving industry. Visitor preferences are always adapting, and different niches open up all the time. A savvy entrepreneur with little more than a clever business plan could fill a niche and earn a living.
Ultimately, access to the opportunities tourism provides starts at schools, where kids must be afforded the chance to hear, see and experience what tourism is all about. This exposure is vital, and it can be as simple as a day visit to a local attraction or a mobile visitor information centre visiting the school to showcase what’s available.
Our challenge as tourism professionals is to pass it on, to mentor, to encourage and to raise the next generation. We’re the ones who can turn them into young entrepreneurs, contributing to the tourism economy.
Enver Duminy is CEO of Cape Town Tourism