Without any question in my mind, the greatest resource in the Travel and Tourism industries is people. I have emphasised this in many of my writings as we have discussed the importance of the communities looking after our greatest tourist attraction – our Wildlife. And, I have constantly reminded my readers of the vital importance of Travel Professionals and their expert handling of every facet of travel. I have also spoken of the many challenges that we are facing in our quest to fully emerge from our COVID cocoons and spread our wings again as a fully functional, fully restored industry. The biggest challenge we face, however, is that our greatest resource, our human resource, our workforce, has badly dwindled and now we have to do everything we can to rebuild it, because frankly if we don’t we will never again be the formidable industry we were prior to the pandemic.
Where does it hurt?
It is by no means just South Africa that is facing this problem either. It is a Global issue and the industry needs to address it on a global level before any single country can fully restore its international travel and tourism status – particularly regarding business travel. South Africa was one of the worst-hit though for a country whose economy relies so much on travel and tourism and a Business Insider report gave a good illustration of this saying “Almost 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs were supported by South Africa’s travel industry before the pandemic. This level of employment dropped to less than 990,000 in 2020, representing a reduction of 32.4%, with little reprieve in 2021, as revealed by Tourism Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu.’’ So now, what about solutions? What do we need to do to rebuild this vital resource?
Every successful industry (and the Travel and Tourism industries are no exception) needs to have a continuous pipeline flowing through its organisms. Unfortunately, this lifeline was broken when COVID happened and the first thing we need to do is attempt to recruit ad re-hire all the skilled people we had. Out of sheer necessity, however, many moved out of the industry, some even to become entrepreneurs. So, we need to offer them enough to get them back and although there are never any guarantees, we need to convince them that travel is back on the up and up.
Failing that, we need to go on a global recruitment drive for fresh blood. We have a massive unemployment problem in this country and right now is the right time to join this industry with the massive growth curve we have shown in the last few months. Analysts are saying we can even fully recover to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2024, but we won’t be able to do this without a skilled workforce. Those who are unemployed or desire a change should seriously consider a career in travel right now as many people are hiring, from TMCs to Car Hire, Hotels, Airports, Airlines and many others.
What is vitally important is for every entity in Travel and Tourism to invest in their people now. Teaching news skills, or upskilling long-time staff who never had opportunities in the past. We at BidTravel group are greatly committed to this and together with all affiliates will be on a rigorous recruitment and training drive in 2023 – and putting our money where our mouth is with substantial funds being invested in these programs.
Recognise the value of your people
In the end, it can only be said that we need to recognise the value of our people as there are few industries in which people play a more vital role. Luffina Lourduraj summed it up when she said, “Give importance to those people who give importance to you.” Without people who are willing to serve the public with every fibre of their being because they believe in and are passionate about travel, it can never return to its former glory, so let’s find, equip and nurture them.
For those who will be travelling this year-end – Bon voyage and spare a thought for those who serve you, what they have had to endure and yet still constantly strive to keep the wanderlust alive!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER