Navigating the Future: The Demand for Skilled Travel Consultants in South Africa

In the dynamic landscape of post-COVID 19 in South Africa, the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector is witnessing a rapid recovery, bringing with it a surge in job opportunities for travel consultants. At Lee Botti & Associates, we recognise the evolving needs of the industry and the high demand for skilled professionals who can navigate this resurgence. Join us on a journey through the recent history of travel recruitment post-COVID 19 and explore the exciting prospects that lie ahead.

Rising Demand Amidst Skills Shortage

As South Africa swiftly recovers from the impact of the pandemic, the demand for skilled, reliable, and motivated workers – such as travel consultants – in the tourism sector is reaching new heights. According to Jabu Matsilele, Chairperson of the Small Tourism Enterprise Association (STEA), there’s a pressing need for committed and qualified professionals to join the rapidly recovering tourism businesses across the country. Globally, the travel and tourism sector saw a modest increase in employment in 2022, rebounding from the sharp decline during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. However, the industry has yet to reach pre-pandemic employment levels, with approximately 295 million jobs worldwide in 2022 and 320 million jobs in 2023. This offers hope for a more robust and resilient industry in the future.

Skills Gap: The Challenge and the Opportunity

Despite the growing demand for jobs, the travel and hospitality sector faces a significant challenge – a skills gap. There is a noticeable void in middle management within the hospitality sector. The rapid promotion of existing middle management personnel during the pandemic has created a gap, leaving a stark contrast between entry-level positions and senior leadership roles.

This skills gap is further exacerbated by experienced travel professionals either changing careers or immigrating post-pandemic. Kim Botti, Director of Lee Botti & Associates, notes a substantial exodus of consultants from the industry, contributing to the scarcity of skilled talent.

Challenges and Opportunities

The industry grapples with various challenges, ranging from rising costs and reduced revenue to skill and talent shortages. There are a few hurdles to note, including safety concerns, energy generation issues, bureaucratic hurdles, and additional expenses associated with running hospitality businesses in South Africa.

However, in the face of challenges, opportunities emerge. There is a potential for entrepreneurs to start small companies, particularly those catering to international leisure markets such as the Middle East, India, and the US. The US, in particular, presents an exciting opportunity, with a demand for authentic experiences from previously disadvantaged SMEs.

Addressing Job Market Pressures

Kim Botti underscores the current pressure on existing staff in the industry and the necessity for organisations to bring in skilled talent. The changing expectations of job seekers, seeking work-life balance and flexibility, pose additional challenges. However, organisations are adapting, offering remote or hybrid positions for skilled staff while recognising the importance of team culture and knowledge sharing.

Navigating the Future: Opportunities and Responsibilities

Amidst the challenges, there are numerous opportunities for growth within the hospitality industry. There is a need to broaden perspectives beyond traditional front-of-house and food and beverage services. Areas such as yield management, sales, marketing, e-commerce, digital marketing, and web development represent untapped opportunities that can reinvigorate the industry and create more job opportunities.

There is a strong role for industry leaders to make the sector appealing again, especially to younger talent. FEDHASA actively engages with the public and private sectors, functioning as an informal recruitment agency and connecting students with internship opportunities.

Charting a Course for Success

The travel, tourism, and hospitality sector in South Africa is on the brink of a new era of growth and opportunity. At Lee Botti & Associates, we recognise the evolving landscape and the critical role that skilled travel consultants play in shaping the future of the industry. As the demand for jobs continues to rise, closing the skills gap and embracing new opportunities will be essential for sustained success. Join us in navigating this exciting future and unlocking the full potential of the travel and hospitality sector in South Africa.