Scaling your staff training capacity to keep up with demand and growth in your tourism business

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Scaling your staff training capacity to keep up with demand and growth in your tourism business

South Africa is on the brink of a tourism boom as international travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. Hotel and guesthouse employees will need to be on top of their game

Johannesburg, 6 March 2024 – Tourism in South Africa is fast reaching pre-pandemic levels and may even surpass them this year.

Figures released by Stats SA show that in December 2023, 3.5-million travellers were recorded at the country’s ports of entry and exit. This was significantly higher than the 2.9-million visitors recorded during the corresponding period in 2022.

With the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reporting that there were an estimated 1.3-billion international tourist arrivals in 2023, South Africa’s tourism sector is bracing for a surge.

With a boom imminent, hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses will be racing to prepare for the influx. But with so much competition for bookings, these establishments will need to ensure that the guest experience is unrivalled throughout, from the minute travellers look at their offering to the time they check out.

For this reason, it is imperative that staff are trained to keep up with demand and growth of a tourism business.

“There’s a variety of training that a tourism business needs,” says Michael Hanly, MD of South African learning solutions specialist New Leaf Technologies.

“Typically, this would relate to customer service excellence – training for communication, empathy and problem-solving. There also needs to be cultural awareness training, as there are different cultural cues when it comes to international tourists. Language is one that immediately springs to mind.”

Furthermore, tourism employees need to have detailed information about what their business offers. This can extend to local attractions which staff can recommend to guests.

Where an entity can bolster revenue is through upselling and cross-selling, so employees need to be knowledgeable about every service offered. It is also handy to have connections to tour guides who can show travellers around, Hanly says.

He points out that these days technology plays a significant role in tourism, with guests using online booking systems and apps to browse local attractions and restaurants. Hanly advises that staff need to be au fait with these technologies themselves so they can offer guidance to guests without delay.

Increasingly eLearning is being leveraged for tourism training as it can be accessed anywhere and at any time by staff. It also offers flexibility to adapt content easily.

One of its biggest benefits is that it can be accessed across multiple business locations. For hotel chains this is a major boon.

While some aspects, such as food and beverage training, will need practical demonstrations, others are ideally suited to eLearning. One example is informational knowledge relating to food safety. Another is train-the-trainer programmes, where participants are taken through a course and then teach others about aspects of the business.

Hanly says short, focused sessions are best suited to tourism as removing employees for days at a time will impact productivity levels.

“You need to offer staff something you can learn on the fly. A tourism business should offer cross-training, as this helps when demand fluctuates. It’s very hard to onboard employees during peak season, so it’s important that staff can perform multiple roles.

“A food and beverage specialist, for example, should understand the internal booking process and specials, identify upselling opportunities, offer guests guidance on various amenities, and have knowledge about the different business or holiday experiences the organization has to offer, both internally and regarding nearby attractions.”

Hanly says tourism businesses that use eLearning and microlearning should always measure training effectiveness. Clear goals and metrics to gauge the impact of training delivered is crucial if customers are to be kept satisfied.

“If you address these areas, you can create a scalable training programme. But a return on investment must be showcased.”

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About New Leaf Technologies

New Leaf Technologies provides “best of breed” learning software and services to corporations, training companies and educational institutions throughout Africa and the Middle East. Its products include aNewSpring, a cloud-based Learner Experience Platform (LXP); New Leaf LMS, an enterprise-grade Learner Management System; and Sprout, an advanced trainable AI learning companion. The company also offers over 30 000 off-the-shelf courses and tailor-made course content, shareable through these platforms, as well as turnkey design and production services, to create holistic e-learning experiences.

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