By Madeleine Khunou - Talent Manager, Human Capital Division, Tourvest Destination Management
What skillset does a tour consultant in a South African Destination Management Company (DMC) need to have?
In-depth South African product knowledge, customer advisory skills, negotiation skills, relationship-building skills, financial revenue management skills, logistics skills, problem-solving skills and business communication and creative writing skills, to name a few. The ability to deal with immense pressure due to the huge volumes of enquiries. Attention to detail, and quick thinking to find the right solutions in the required turn-around time, are also essential.
I very much doubt that all of the above can be taught in a generic tertiary Tourism Qualification. A big gap for DMCs is South African product knowledge. I have personally interviewed potential junior employees with qualifications in Tourism Management who only knew some of the basic tourist attractions South Africa has to offer.
South Africa is fortunate to have so many attractions, and no one can know everything. But the expectation of a Destination Specialist is to have knowledge that cannot be found easily in the public domain.
The days of a six-month training opportunity in a company have passed. A junior Tour Consultant has a lot to grasp in the first few months from company systems, processes and procedures, client service agreements, etc. There is not much time to still teach them necessary South African tourism knowledge.
I get two to three enquiries for internships or volunteer work in a week, but we do not have enough opportunities for Junior Tour Consultants. Tourvest Destination Management runs a one-year Learnership Programme every year, an initiative aimed at training Junior Tour Consultants. Learners get the opportunity to complete a Travel Certificate, while gaining hands-on work experience in our business.
Many of our learners become Interns and then permanent staff take up some of the Junior Tour Consultant roles. Last year, we had over 2 500 applications and this year we had double that. The signs are clear; Tourism is an attractive field for many. But I question whether everybody who applies has the perseverance to stay in the business long enough to acquire the relevant skills to become a specialist.
Tourvest Destination Management has also started its own Guide Academy to train South African Tourist Guides on a 10-month culture guiding course. The business felt the need to train the Tourist Guides on new skills set such as storytelling, advanced driving, security awareness, and more.
My advice to the graduates in the tourism field wanting to join a DMC in South Africa is to make the effort to understand the South African tourism landscape. I feel that we should spend more time grooming this knowledge and by doing so we can hopefully reignite the passion in selling the unique South African tourist experience.