Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Analysing Employers' Expectations of Employee Skills in the South African Tourism Industry

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Analysing Employers' Expectations of Employee Skills in the South African Tourism Industry

Article excerpt


Key focus

With the significant growth of the tourism industry in South Africa since the country's first democratic elections in 1994 (Grobler, Warnich, Carrell, Elbert & Hatfield, 2006; Department of Tourism, 2011), various efforts have been made by the government to improve the skills levels of South Africans in this industry. The Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport SETA (CATHSSETA) programmes were designed to cater for this need, but the majority of tourism employers participating in the CATHSSETA programmes have indicated that they are not satisfied with the skills displayed by learners working in their tourism enterprises. Hence the question arises whether the CATHSSETA programme is effectively addressing the skills expectation of the tourism industry.


High-season business demands in the tourism industry such as time pressure, high employee turnover, rapid money turnover - especially in small businesses - and the inability to assess the benefit of training and the expertise needed to provide training have been identified as hindering and discouraging the provision of ongoing employee training in this industry (D'Annunzio-Green, Maxwell & Watson, 2004; Baum, Amouh & Spivack, 1997; Jerris, 1999). Nonetheless, according to Haven-Tang and Jones (2006) as well as Lucas (2004), some of these constraints in the tourism industry are generally accepted as inevitable and natural processes.

In addition, the tourism industry is dominated by small businesses (Lucas, 2004; Baum, 1999; Peacock & Ladkin, 2002) with some of the owner-manager positions in these small businesses being filled by expatriates, the majority of whom lack tourism knowledge and management skills and have never undergone formal tourism training (D'Annunzio- Green et al., 2004; Haven-Tang & Jones, 2006; Baum et al., 1997; Baum, 1995). Globally, the industry faces skills shortages in key operational, technical and managerial areas, the extent varying between developed and developing countries.

Nevertheless, tourism remains a large contributor to South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP). Furthermore, its wider economic impacts are forecast to rise by 4.8% per annum from R328.2 billion (11.4% of GDP) in 2011 to R522.4 billion (11.5% of GDP) by 2021. The total contribution to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, is forecast to rise by 2.5% per annum from 1 334 000 jobs (10.1% of total employment) in 2011 to 1 709 000 (10.7% of total employment) by 2021 (World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 2011). The International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2010) states that it is said that career opportunities are more accessible in tourism than in many other sectors of the economy owing to the diverse and fragmented nature of this industry. This is evident in the support the industry provides to improve the skills and knowledge of interested learners, which has led to the development of various training institutions and programmes such as CATHSSETA learnerships and internships. Accessibility to the latter has also become a priority of the South African government and other role players across the industry, and involves both urban and rural communities (Akoojee, 2009; Pawson, 1999). Saayman (2005) argued in 2005 that the future of a successful South African tourism industry is closely linked to the development of its human resource capacity.

Trends from research literature

According to Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart and Wright (2009) and Chen and Klimoski (2007), the nature of the modern business environment and the challenges in the 21st century make training more important today than ever before. Various training programmes were developed to address this situation because it is important to ensure that the skills expected in the workplace and those obtained by learners during training are in accord. However, it is a continuous struggle to find adequate and skilled employees to face the challenges of the tourism industry (Saayman, 2005). …

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