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NATIONAL TOURISM CAREERS EXPO 2008 (article first published : 2008-08-15)

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism (DACT-KZN) and the Tourism, Hospitality & Sport Education & Training Authority (THETA) are to host the 2008 National Tourism Careers Expo at the Durban Exhibition Centre from October 14 to 16, 2008.

At a media launch presided over by The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhasi, plans were unveiled for the Expo which has been created to encourage school learners, students and unemployed youth to pursue a career in tourism. Through a synergy between tourism corporate business and the various government departments, learners will be able to source the avenues of their choice whether it be in travel, cuisine, accommodation, environment or arts and crafts and discover the opportunities and rewarding jobs available within the tourism sector.

Even though the tourism sector is one of the largest and most diverse industries in the world, it remains a largely untapped sector when it comes to attracting young individuals to choose it as a career. A key focus of the Expo is to showcase to young people the vast potential, says Sindiswa Nhlumayo, Deputy Director General: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

According to THETA, tourism is the fastest growing industry in South Africa, contributing no less than 10% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and consisting of five main sectors - accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation, and entertainment, transportation and travel services - with over 400 occupations.

A skills audit conducted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) revealed that the South African Tourism industry requires up to 80,000 workers in the two years ahead of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. However, workshops conducted with each of the potential host cities for 2010 found that one of the key challenges South Africa faces within this sector is lack of awareness on the benefits of pursuing a career in this industry.

Many tourism occupations involve working with the public, particularly in front-line positions. However, there are also numerous jobs behind the scenes for people who are not comfortable with daily face-to-face interaction these include research, marketing or technology of hospitality positions. The variety of occupations found within each sector is as diverse as the sectors themselves.

Most entry-level positions in the tourism industry do not require a university degree although other forms of education and/or training are usually necessary. Some entry-level positions pay minimum wages but many opportunities exist to supplement income with commissions, gratuities or other benefits such as free or discounted accommodation.

MEC for Arts, Culture and Tourism in KZN, Mrs Weziwe Thusi, stated that her department introduced the Tourism Career Expo in 2006 which it was followed by a repeat in 2007. While these events were successful, the learners spent more time collecting brochures than truly engaging with the stakeholders. Plans are in place to hold The Expo on an annual basis when it will continue to stimulate, inspire and encourage young people to explore opportunities in the tourism as a career.

Thanks to the involvement of the education departments and the fact that learners can study Tourism as a subject, there is greater awareness among young people of the value of the tourism industry in South Africa. A further incentive to become involved in the Tourism Career Expo is a competition titled Responsible Tourism which will offer attractive prizes.

A perfect example of someone carving a career in the tourism industry was Bhekani Ndwandwe (21), a professional praise-singer who gave us a rousing closure of the media launch. No doubt we will see much more of him in time to come!

The National Tourism Careers Expo 2008 takes place at the Durban Exhibition Centre from October 14 to 16 from 08h00 to 16h30. Entrance is free. For more information visit www.tourismcareers.co.za




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