Communication, problem solving and empathy key for propelling South African tourism, experts say

A giraffe walking in the african savannah of Entabeni Safari Wildlife Reserve with a butte geological rock formation in the background, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    As visitor numbers to South Africa head toward a five-year high, experts say that tourism business must ensure that staff are properly trained to keep up with the demand and growth of the industry.

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

    “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.”

    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.

    In 2024, 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.

    “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,” Hanly continued.

    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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