The new year is a time of taking stock of what you want for your life, and challenging yourself to achieve your goals for the year ahead.
For many, this typically means a renewed focus on diet and exercise, trying new things, focusing on family life, doing better for the planet and getting organised.
But it’s also an excellent time to consider where you are headed in your current career, and what you want for your future working life.
While the South African economy has struggled in recent years, the tourism industry has seen phenomenal growth. According to Statistics SA, the sector had a very successful year in terms of job creation in 2017 with more than 30 000 new jobs created. This was the highest growth seen in eight years.
Judiet Barnes, Thebe Tourism Group (TTG) Marketing Manager and Kruger Shalati concession General Manager, says that there is huge potential for further jobs and career growth within the industry as there are so many different departments and roles within the sector.
Barnes has been Marketing Manager at TTG for more than seven years, and is now also heading up the company’s latest new projects as the concession General Manager at Kruger Shalati. This role sees her stationed within the Kruger National Park, having moved her family from Cape Town to take on the challenge.
If a career in tourism is your New Year’s resolution, here are her tips to help you on your way.
Make a change, at any age
Young people coming out of high school and university in South Africa would be wise to consider stepping on to the tourism career ladder.
Barnes says that TTG is known for grooming young talent and building them to head up its divisions, and she believes that more companies should be taking on the challenge of training and growing young talent.
That said, whatever your age, it’s never too late to pursue your dream job in the tourism industry.
“South Africa is a beautiful country, frequently winning global tourism awards and attracting the eyes of travellers from around the world - just recently it was recognised as one of the world’s 5 most Instagrammable destinations! There is definitely room for further job creation, so those looking to take the leap to pursue a career in the sector would be doing so at a good time,” says Barnes.
Work your way up
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom when you’re first starting out. Barnes herself started in the marketing department at Cape Point and worked her way up in various roles all the way to senior management in one of the most anticipated new products in Kruger.
While Celeste Bell, current General Manager at Cape Point, another concession Thebe Tourism Group owns, worked her way through roles as a General Assistant, Supervisor, Maintenance Administrator, Safety Officer, Stock Controller and Deputy Manager along the way to becoming the first person of colour to ultimately hold the position of General Manager.
Bell’s advice is to tackle any and all roles in the industry, to use every situation as valuable experience towards your next promotion, to broaden your horizons through experiences, and to always stay up to date with tourism trends.
“Growing in your career requires continuous self development. You must stop learning new things. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you are not working on improving yourself or learning new skills you're eventually going to run into problems”, adds Bells.
Embrace lifelong learning
No matter what role you find yourself in, there is always scope to continue learning. While there is much to be learned from gaining experience within various roles, formal qualifications will put you in good stead to climb up the ranks. That said, there are many ways to learn such as through attending workshops, inspirational talks at trade shows and networking events, or even taking affordable online courses in your free time.
“You can always stay on top of your game by committing to garnering knowledge in any way possible. Lifelong learning is invaluable in any career. Your company might even provide training or funding for courses. One of the most valuable form of learning is peer-to-peer and mentorships. Find people who inspire and can offer experienced advise and absorb as much as you can from them" Barnes explains.
Consider all your options
There is a myriad of career opportunities to be considered in the tourism industry, spanning many different sectors within the broader market.
There is demand for travel agents and tour operators, spa and resort management, activity coordinators and event planners, chefs and sommeliers, and a host of other hospitality roles from guiding, hosting to bar-tending or serving to chartering cruises or flying planes. Not forgetting the secondary roles servicing the tourism industry through required services such as cleaning, security, deliveries and waste management for establishments for example.
Many hospitality and tourist attractions require specific technical services and guest-related experiences – the opportunities are widespread. With the ever-changing landscape in tourism one can always create opportunities through a niched skill to fill a specific void that could be created through innovations in the sector.
TTG has divisions in group travel, corporate travel, car hire, travel insurance, and hospitality and investments. This means, according to Barnes, that there are potential jobs available in accounting, marketing, reservations and distribution, IT, business development, and much more.
Don’t be afraid of big challenges
For Barnes, she has been empowered in her career by being thrown in the deep end and given the opportunity to solve problems with the support of management.
“When exciting projects come up, I always put up my hand to do anything regardless of how mundane it may seem. I then make it my business to learn how the entire project runs. If I’m not sure how to do something, I spend hours researching and consulting experts in the field until I know how to do it,” she says.
If you have passion for the industry, she says, you will have a very fulfilling career in tourism ‒ provided you work hard for it.