South Africa may have rich landscapes and fascinating cultures and be renowned for its wildlife reserves, but it is competing for a share of the international tourist market with hundreds of other destinations.
Success in the hospitality and tourism Industry depends, therefore, on the quality of leadership to ensure sustained growth for the future of the sector.
This was highlighted by Judi Nwokedi, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at Tourvest Integrated Tourism Group.
She pointed out that identifying future leaders and ensuring that they had the skills to participate and guide the industry, meant identifying and encouraging individuals, particularly university and college graduates, to join and grow the sector.
“An integral part of building the sector involves offering young South Africans the opportunity to meet and compete with their regional colleagues at events like the Middle East and Africa (MEA) Future Leaders Challenge. This event, which opened in Dubai on January 23 and ran until January 26, brought together top students from 24 colleges and universities in the Middle East and across Africa.”
Nwokedi noted that the goal of the event was to enhance the development of participants, involve them in addressing crucial industry challenges, and foster collaboration among regional industry leaders.
At the Dubai Future Leaders Challenge (FLC), 130students from South Africa and others from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius, and Seychelles participated in pre-assigned groups, collaborating to develop and present solutions for industry challenges identified by the FLC advisory board.
The platform offers an opportunity for leading industry players and directors of tourism faculties to align curricula with industry needs and connect with regional talent, ensuring that hospitality industry education remained relevant for the growing demand of consumers.
Thriving in the destinations industry
“The key to thriving in the competitive destinations industry is being able to anticipate and adapt to events and challenges. By involving South Africans in stimulating industry events like the Future Leaders Challenge, we are developing these vital skills,” commented Nwokedi.
She emphasised that the success of tourism in South Africa also depended on leaders’ strategic planning skills, being able to adapt to global and local market shifts, and integrating appropriate technologies across all facets of hospitality businesses.
“Leaders must also involve all stakeholders, encouraging participation by government, the private sector, local communities, and NGOs so that national objectives can be achieved.
“Creating opportunities for others and empowerment are vital if our tourism industry is to offer the quality service and positive visitor experiences that bolster our country’s reputation as a tourist-friendly destination.
“Encouraging graduates into the industry, and then exposing them to opportunities for development such as the Future Leaders Challenge, are positive steps in developing a strong, resilient, sustainable industry that contributes to the nation’s economy,” concluded Nwokedi.