1. Tourism can create jobs, and lots of them
There is very little in the tourism sector and especially the hospitality subsector that can be mechanised and as it grows, more jobs will be created. It’s as simple as that! No machine can replace a waiter delivering a meal and no machine can give a tourist a warm welcome. Despite disruptive technology (eg. Airbnb) and online booking platforms replacing some reservations functions, in general, tourism is a labour absorbing sector of our economy.
2. Tourism is sustainable and can be very inclusive
Unlike industries such as mining, tourism is neither extractive nor exploitative – in terms of the environment or labour. Because so many tourism activities are inextricably linked to our natural endowments such as fauna and flora, wildlife, etc., there is an obvious appreciation for the need for the sector to be sustainable. Work in the tourism sector is governed by minimum wage determinations. Other types of tourism, for example cultural and heritage tourism, are also inclusive of communities, especially in rural areas. Much is being done to include rural communities as beneficiaries of tourism, making the benefits deep and far reaching.
3. Tourism is accessible
The tourism sector is perfectly suited to the current profile of our labour force. There are many opportunities for people without formal and/or tertiary qualifications, from housekeepers to waiters to information officers to site guides to drivers to kitchen assistants. The key requirements are an ability to learn, good attitude, people skills and customer focus – most of these are intrinsic, as opposed to learned skills. While moving up the ladder is not always easy, much progress can be made ‘on the job’ by people with ambition and a willingness for further training.
4. Barriers to entry into the tourism sector are relatively low
Many tourism businesses started off with one vehicle or a couple of rooms. There is definitely a need to develop management capacity in the sector, but much can be done through the chain of practical learning. Today there is more access to funding for tourism businesses, although perhaps not enough nor sufficiently focused.
5. There is no overconcentration of economic power in the tourism sector
There are some relatively large tourism enterprises and companies but not many that are listed and few that are overly dominant. Moreover, the very nature of the sector is such that demand for tourism product is unlikely to require corporate or large company ownership. Because tourism has become more about ‘experiences’ and ‘personalities’, it is often small establishments or tour operators that are chosen above a large firm to deliver the authentic and/or innovative experiences that modern travellers seek.
6. Tourism encourages entrepreneurship and small business
There is plenty of space for entrepreneurs and small businesses, which are often preferred for the experiential products that tourists want. Furthermore, family businesses also feature often as preferred suppliers due to the authentic and face-to-face experiences that they offer. In a recent survey undertaken by Kruger Lowveld Tourism, preliminary results suggest that about 70% of the tourist plant in the region is a so-called ‘family business’. So for successful future entrants into the industry, the opportunity to create a family business exists.
7. The multiplier effects of tourism can be significant
Just outside the fuzzy borders of what constitutes the formal tourism sector are a whole range of other economic activities that develop around the sector. In rural areas, such as the Kruger Lowveld, the potential for subsistence agriculture and ‘market gardening’ to supply the hospitality subsector is an example of real economic opportunity. The outsourcing of laundry, gardening and landscaping services, repairs and maintenance, waste removal and recycling bring people on the fringes into the mainstream. Of course, there is the local petrol station, supermarket or spaza shop, crafter, musician and artist that can also reap economic benefits from the tourism sector.
8. Tourism encourages ‘pride of place’
An important element for self, community, region, province and nation, pride of place is an inspirational concept that elevates the human soul. Pride of place will ensure that the water will run, the streets will be clean, signage will be clear, the street lights will work, there will be uninterrupted electricity supply, the clinics will operate effectively, safety and security of communities will be prioritised, etc, this brings service delivery right down to its most obvious and basic level and encourages all authorities at all levels to compete to be the best both for their citizens and for their visitors.
9. Tourism is ‘woman full’
The tourism sector is one where women excel and dominate (I think!) and, although I don’t have any figures to back this up, I would suggest that there are more women working in the sector than men. This goes a long way towards rectifying the gender bias of our economy and is particularly relevant for the rural economy – the place from which Kruger Lowveld’s tourism growth is likely to come.
10. Tourism promotes social cohesion
Barriers, cultural, historical, religious, racial or other, are broken down by meeting people from different places, who speak different languages, who have different beliefs and customs and who simply look different. Even if tourism sector participants don’t have the opportunity or means to travel themselves, they will, through their work, engage with people who are different to them. Domestic and international tourism facilitates this, opens minds to the fact that we are all not the same, reduces the possibility of xenophobia and promotes engagement and sharing in a non-threatening environment.
11. Tourism brings the world to your doorstep
In a country like South Africa and a region such as Kruger Lowveld, many of our people do not have the opportunity or means to travel, either locally or internationally but within the sector they can engage with tourists from other parts of the country and from other parts of the world.
12. Tourism instils a good and honest work ethic - a rewarding sector for hard working people
You might not make a fortune working in the tourism sector and it requires hard work with long hours, but it can be very rewarding. It is more ‘real’ than being a bond trader, a mining mogul, a tendepreneur or investment banker because personal results reflect the effort and time put in. It is part of the ancient tradition of hospitality and care. The sector is all about people – those who work hard to give others satisfaction, pleasure and unique experiences. It is a place where human relationships are made and kept, a sector that calls on people with integrity and stamina. Those that are involved in it and who understand it deeply will also recognise its ability to teach the next generation good, enduring and universal values, while at the same time, recognising the imperative to use modern techniques for the supply of that service and care.