According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa’s tourism industry could create 6.7 million jobs by 2021. The report, titled “Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods”, says that tourism already accounted for one out of every 20 jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011. With further growth expected, a training shortfall has become an imminent threat: a shortfall to which eLearning could well provide the solution.
by Steven Blum
“Africa’s private companies are increasingly attracting regional and international investment and the returns on investing in Africa are among the highest in the world,” says Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa.
In 2012, the entire African continent attracted 33.8 million visitors, up from a low of 6.7 million in 1990. Receipts from tourism for the same year amounted to over $36 billion, or 2.8 percent of the Continent’s GDP.
“Managed sustainably, tourism is an effective development tool,” the report reads. “When tourism’s environmental, social, and economic and other constraints are addressed, tourism energises economies.”
Tourist dollars have a rippling effect throughout a country, enriching various economic sectors, including telecommunications, finance, manufacturing and the local businesses.
A number of hospitality training programmes have been established to meet the demand of the growing industry. SNV, a sustainable development organisation, offers restaurant training courses and on-the-job training for hotel employees in Ghana and Mali. Many other hospitality training programmes, many with an online component, are located in South Africa, where tourism supports more than 10% of jobs in the country.
Meanwhile, Namibia’s first online tourism training platform, TTN, created by GIZ and the Namibian ministry of economic development, went live at eLearning Africa 2013.
According to the Financial Times, Africa is also “the new battleground for the global hotel industry”. In January, the American-based hotel group Marriott bought Protea, a 116 hotel group with locations in seven African nations, for $200 million.
The chain isn’t just excited about courting business from Americans and Europeans. “The big prize is domestic and regional business,” according to Alex Kryiakidis, who heads the Middle East and Africa business at Marriott.
With an influx of upwardly-mobile travellers between Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Luanda and other African cities, hotels are racing to catch up with demand. In some cities like Luanda, the capital of Angola, it remains difficult to find a business class hotel room for less than $500 a night.
Meanwhile, there’s a growing need for tour operators who can secure visas, book accommodations and make tour arrangements for visitors. According to the World Bank, 50- 70% of tourists in Sub Saharan Africa use tour operators, compared to 10 – 15% in other parts of the world.
All of these developments foretell a great need for investment in education. Studies in Egypt, one of Africa’s biggest tourist destinations, have consistently shown high demand among tourism students for eLearning, particularly for a blended approach.
The advantages are numerous: along with the usual benefits of eLearning as regards study costs and access, the online component of students’ training would develop online and interpersonal skills, collaboration and conceptual learning – allowing students to experiment with hypothetical situations and business models.
More importantly still, students could work in tandem with their studies, gaining the practical experience a career in the tourist industry requires.
Egypt’s long-established tourism colleges have, according to 2012 findings, only slowly adopted eLearning. The islands of the Indian Ocean, however, where tourism has long been a vital source of revenue and internet penetration rates are as high as 45%, are setting the standard for eLearning innovation within the sector.
The Seychelles launched its “eLearning Sustainable Tourism Course” in 2012; and Mauritius, where ICTs support a growing financial services industry as well as highly developed network of eLearning centres, followed suit in 2013.
While these tiny states, located miles from the major continental landmass, can hardly be seen as representative, they provide an important blueprint for tourism development – one which other African countries may well choose to emulate.