The declining interest in tourism as a career could leave the industry with a skills shortage. Tourism contributes significantly to the country’s economy.

In 2018, tourism created more than 1.5 million jobs, and generated R425 billion.

The National Tourism Careers Expo is under way in Rustenburg in the North West.

In all its splendour and diversity, South Africa is a popular tourist destination. However, the industry is on the decline with safety and global economic conditions among the contributing factors.

The government aims to build the industry by educating the youth about the sector. Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela says a study indicated a decline in learners taking tourism as a career.

“A study was done that indicated that there was a decline in learners taking tourism as a career and that presented a huge challenge in terms of skills that the tourism industry needed in the country. That’s why we had to embark on this programme.”

The expo host province is also trying to turn the tide. North West Tourism board member Sarah Manone says the North West is negotiating joint marketing agreements with other provinces.

“In order to turn things around, as a tourism board, we are busy negotiating for joint marketing agreements with a number of provinces and stakeholders so that we can at least use and benefit from other marketing activations so that we can combat the issue that we are not having enough budget for marketing.”

Mahlalela says that the Career Expo is bearing fruit.

“If you go to KZN where we started, the number has drastically increased in terms of this. Learners become interested in tourism. The same thing applies with the Eastern Cape. We are still assessing the Free State where we just passed and we’ll also be assessing things here in the North West.”

And there is still is an appetite for a career in the industry. Elias Mojakgolo, 19 years old, says he would like to own a travelling agency.

“I’d like to own a company for travel agency. I know travel agents book flights and accommodation for travellers. But for me, I’d like to explore the content more.”