Youth in tourism

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Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry with artistes at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe

By Vince Musewe
I HAVE been articulating the importance of specific sectoral policies which we need to adopt in order to create an inclusive economy where our youths are key drivers of future growth. Any country which marginalises its youth will not grow to its full potential. This week I want to share my ideas on youth in tourism.

Tourism continues to be one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic sectors of Africa’s economy with the potential to create jobs, boost inclusive economic growth across the continent, and reduce poverty. Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe remain the top five rankings for most visited African destinations which present significant opportunities for Zimbabwe going forward. Granted the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted growth in that sector, but recovery is now happening.

It is said that most investors are tourists’ first, so attracting tourists must inevitably be part and parcel of any investment drive. The potential of tourism in Zimbabwe must be unlocked through a comprehensive and holistic approach and as citizens, we all need to appreciate its benefits so that we too can promote our country whenever we may get the opportunity to do so.

In my opinion, it is, therefore, not the sole responsibility of government or the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) to promote our country, but all of us should do so for the benefit of our people and economy. I have argued before that, in my opinion, we need to change our attitudes and our approach to tourism. While the ZTA must promote, facilitate and regulate, we must move away from a prescriptive culture and for me Zimbabwe Tourism Promotion Agency would certainly be a more appropriate name.

Focus on the development of young people as a major force in the development of sustainable tourism is essential and this can facilitate economic, social, cultural and environmental progress. What will be key is the attitude of the local youth towards sustainable tourism and the support they are given.

It is a fact that tourism is a labour intensive industry requiring both skilled and unskilled labour. Besides direct contribution to employment, the industry also has a positive impact on livelihoods of local communities in tourism destinations. In recent years, studies have shown a growing trend in the expansion of the benefits of tourism beyond the confines of traditional tourist attraction sites to communities. Youth can, therefore, be the beneficiaries of a targeted tourism policy which seeks to involve youth at all levels of the sector.

According to the African Development Bank, youth unemployment and underemployment constitute central challenges to Africa’s development. If youth unemployment rates remain unchanged in Africa, nearly 50% of the youth — excluding students — will be unemployed, discouraged, or economically inactive by 2025. This poses a serious danger for Africa.

The tourism sector is considered the fourth pillar of the Zimbabwean economy but its performance is weakened by a poor enabling environment. Youth make up 60% of the population, but are faced by high levels of unemployment and underemployment.

Without the participation and involvement of youth in the tourism sector, the sector will not grow to its full potential and be able to contribute significantly to employment, poverty alleviation and economic growth.

Participation of communities in tourism is critical to broaden sustainable incomes especially in rural areas where there are underutilised tourism assets.

Unfortunately, there is no coordinated effort at policy level to ensure youth involvement in this sector. Barriers to entry for youths in this sector still exist and they include:

  • Lack of access to information by youth on the opportunities available in the tourism sector
  • Lack of skills by youth due to lack of training facilities and affordable access by youth
  • Low investment in the tourism sector, therefore, limiting opportunities for youth involvement
  • No access to existing tourist assets for youth
  • Lack of tailor-made funding to ensure that youth can access and exploit new opportunities in the sector

The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) seeks to achieve tourism growth by implementing the following: Product development and diversification; Market development and diversification;   Destination accessibility; Tourism investments promotion; and Tourism Policy and Legislative Review. However it appears no specific mention is made of youth inclusion in this sector.

In my opinion, it is critical that tourism sector strategy deals with the following issues when it comes to youth inclusion:

Facilitate the access of youth to government loan facilities in the tourism sector. This can be achieved through facilitating access of youth to government facilities targeting tourism and monitoring and assisting in effective implementation of projects accessed by youths under the facilities.

Enable youth to access information and opportunities in the sector and create awareness. This can involve creating youth in tourism networks and utilise effective media channels which are readily accessible to youth and ensuring that youth attend tourism workshops/events/functions.

Entrepreneurship development of youth and investment promotion in tourism sector. Establish youth tourism entrepreneurship development and training hubs, Support tourism workshop attendance by youths. Include tourism skills training in youth entrepreneurship incubators. Facilitate access to scholarships/bursaries for tourism training for youths and encourage investors in the sector to include youth.

Increase training and development opportunities for youth in the sector including linking tourism training colleges with tourism companies. This includes youth internships in operating tourism assets or establishments

Ensure access to funding for youths who seek to enter the tourism sector and deliberately invest in youth-led tourist businesses projects or ventures.

Promote local tourism by youth groups to create awareness of opportunities within the sector.

Include youth-owned companies in the tourism value chain and provide business opportunities for them.

We have to have a youth agenda in everything we do in order to create an inclusive developmental momentum.

In my opinion each province must have a youth empowerment plan for each and every sector and progress needs to be regularly monitored.

  •  Vince Musewe is an independent economist and you can contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com