Meeting demand in the tourism sector | The Planner

As international travel rebounds to levels seen before the pandemic, South Africa stands on the cusp of a significant tourism upsurge, necessitating unparalleled preparedness among hotel and guesthouse staff. Statistics South Africa’s recent release indicates a notable increase in traveller activity, with December 2023 witnessing 3.5 million movements across national borders, a sharp rise from 2.9 million during the same period in 2022.

With global travel dynamics improving, as evidenced by the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s estimation of 1.3 billion international tourist arrivals in 2023, South Africa’s tourism sector anticipates a significant boost. The impending boom places a premium on accommodation providers, from hotels to B&Bs and guesthouses, to elevate the guest experience. This commitment spans the entire customer journey, from initial engagement to check-out, making staff training crucial to cater to the growing demand and competition.

Michael Hanly, Managing Director of New Leaf Technologies, a pioneer in South African learning solutions, underscores the importance of comprehensive training.

“Tourism businesses require a wide array of training, from customer service excellence, which includes communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills, to cultural sensitivity towards international visitors,” Hanly elaborates.

Moreover, employees must be well-versed in their business’s offerings and local attractions to enhance guest experiences. Upselling and cross-selling strategies, along with a solid knowledge of services and partnerships with tour guides, are essential for revenue growth.

Hanly also highlights the evolving role of technology in enriching tourism experiences. As online platforms and apps become integral to the booking and exploration processes, staff proficiency in these technologies is critical for timely guest support.

E-learning has emerged as a vital tool for training in the tourism sector

This is because it offers the flexibility and accessibility needed to keep pace with the industry’s demands. Its scalability across multiple locations is particularly beneficial for hotel chains, allowing for a consistent training approach.

While practical demonstrations remain essential for certain training aspects, such as food and beverage service, e-learning is perfectly suited for informational and train-the-trainer programmes. This method supports short, impactful sessions, aligning with the industry’s need for minimal disruption to operational productivity.

Hanly advocates for a cross-training approach to ensure staff versatility, especially during peak seasons. He stresses the importance of evaluating training effectiveness through clear objectives and metrics, essential for maintaining customer satisfaction and demonstrating a return on investment.

By addressing these key areas, South Africa’s tourism businesses can develop scalable training programmes that not only meet the current surge in demand but also ensure sustained growth and guest satisfaction in the long term.