Reasons to pursue a career


In spite of the tourism sector being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, its importance cannot be overstated. The Statista website shows that before the pandemic – and even now – South Africa is the second most-visited destination in Africa, with Morocco holding first spot.

Furthermore, it shows that in terms of infrastructure South Africa is way ahead of any other African country – it had the highest number of chain and branded hotels in relation to other selected African countries in 2017. While many may have closed their doors during the pandemic, the infrastructure remains, and this inevitably is a boost for the rebuilding process. So, while jobs in the sector may seem few and far between now, the future holds much promise not just for more jobs, but also more resilient ones to boot.

There is no doubt that in South Africa the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating. And it is going to take time for the tourism sector to recover fully. But government is determined to aid in its recovery, as evidenced in the South African Tourism Recovery Plan. Government recognises the tourism industry as the largest generator of jobs in South Africa. And as such it is crucial that rebuilding a better and more resilient tourism sector is crucial for South Africa’s overall economic recovery.

Whether people travel for leisure or business, they make use of many tourism-linked services. According to GradJobs “the World Travel & Tourism Council reports that 319 million people are employed in tourism; a figure which accounts for a whopping 10% of all total employment across the world”. Besides direct employment in the sector, there are many service providers involved in making your travel experience enjoyable – from travel agents who help you book flights and accommodation to housekeepers who keep your hotel room spick and span to travel guides who show you around – the list of jobs is endless and growing every year as the sector evolves over time.

Even if a business is not necessarily linked to the industry it can benefit from tourism. Here are a few examples:

  • Food services
  • Retail
  • Artisans – gifts, novelties, curios
  • Event organisers
  • Entertainment and cultural experience providers
  • Transport – bus, plane, train, ship, taxis.

One thing is clear, a healthy tourism industry will ensure a healthier economy and the creation of more jobs in other sectors of that economy.

According to Statista, 16.44 million people visited South Africa in 2018. These people not only visited South Africa – they spent money here. Hence the economy benefited. As the economy strengthened so too did investment and business opportunities. This, in turn, lead to job creation and overall economic growth. As we move forward after the pandemic, we must remember this and strive to achieve the same in the future.

We must be cognisant of the fact that a healthy tourism sector will attract not only local investment, but international investment too. New businesses may open, and they will take on new employees. Even the informal sector stands to gain (merchants, artisans etc) ensuring they become self-sustainable. So, if you are thinking of a career in tourism here are our top 5 reasons why you should look no further. Remember there is no straight path to the top in this sector. Opportunities abound and are varied. Doing your research is important in mapping out a career trajectory that will make you happy.

People person

Do you enjoy working with people? Are you happy when people thank you for the excellent service you’ve provided? Do you have a passion for your country, city, or town? Do you enjoy meeting and engaging with people of other cultures? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, this right here is the first reason a career in tourism is for you. And there are many varied roles in the industry with your name on it.

Immersive study

Unlike in most careers that involve a great deal of book learning and studying over some years before you actually get to work, in tourism you often get to practise as you learn. The tourism industry is hands-on and creative. The best way to study is to be a part of the industry from the get-go.

A myriad of opportunities

As we’ve alluded to in the first part of this article, tourism is an extremely broad term – and is getting even broader as we rebuild and reinvent a more sustainable sector. For you this means you have a huge range of jobs to choose from. And there are a myriad gateways into a career in tourism. Consider your talents and skills. Consider what career path best fits those talents and skills. No doubt there is a job for you in the tourism industry.
Tourism covers everything. While desk-based travel agents keep their feet firmly on the ground, cruise ship staff or air cabin crew travel widely. While marketing executives sell a dream, pilots and divers live the dream. The choice is yours.

Evolving and changing

The pandemic has laid bare the urgent need for the tourism to be more adaptable and forward-thinking in order to survive in times of crisis. It’s been a harsh lesson, but stakeholders as well as government are determined to learn from their errors. They are determined to rebuild a robust, more resilient tourism sector that favours evolution, change and adaptation. Service providers are aware that post-pandemic travel will never be the same. The call for large group tours may diminish in favour tours in smaller groups with people travellers know and feel comfortable with. Hotel hygiene standards will play an important role in whether tourists choose to stay there or not. The demand for outdoor, off-the-beaten-track holidays may grow as tourists try to avoid busy, crowded cities. All of this means that traditional jobs in the sector will evolve and change, and new opportunities will be available soon. What better time to join the ride than now?


One of the positives we can take from the COVID-19 pandemic is the fact that work can be flexible and remote. Productivity is not dependent on a person being in an office five days a week from 9 to 5. With an increase in the use of cloud technologies and communications software, businesses have been able to implement remote and flexible working policies for their employees. And now job-seekers list work flexibility as an important priority. A career in tourism offers exactly this. It is a sector that never sleeps – so flexibility is paramount, and employees have more choice in how their working days are structured.

Transferable skills

Tourism about more than just travel. It’s about education, marketing, entertainment, finances and the economy, cultural awareness, history and more. If you find that the industry doesn’t work for you, you won’t have to start from scratch as you embark on a new career. Your knowledge and skills can be transferred to other sectors.

Sustainable practice

Eco-tourism, agri-tourism and community tourism are the new buzzwords in the tourism sector. And they’re closely linked to a growing concern for our planet and the people living on it. If this is your calling, then working in tourism will allow you to make your mark. There are many opportunities, through your role in the sector, to protect cultural practices, champion wildlife conservation, and implement greener travel processes. Sustainable tourism is crucial element in our recovery plan. Now is the time for you to join the sector to help fuel and facilitate change for a better future.