South African tourism graduates’ perceptions of decent work in the Western Cape tourism industry
The 2011 National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) adopted the concept of sustainable development towards decent work as a strategic objective of priority in the South African tourism industry (South African National Department of Tourism (SA.NDT), 2011a). The objective operates to address unfavourable aspects associated with work in tourism, and is relevant to tourism graduates as their susceptibility to decent work deficits contributes to a shortage of professionals with industry-related skills in the tourism industry. Over four years have passed since the SA.NDT declared priority interest on the decent work objective in 2011. Yet no noticeable progress has yet been made. This has raised a need to expand the knowledge base on decent work in tourism so as to retain skilled tourism professionals and sustainably develop the industry, as it is a priority sector for the country’s sustainable growth. The focus of this study was to establish tourism graduates’ perceptions (and experiences) of decent work in the tourism industry, as they are susceptible to decent work deficits and are abandoning the labour sector for which they created expectations and were highly trained. Due to the exploratory nature of the study, a qualitative research approach was adopted using a structured interview guide to collect primary data. The target population was limited to the 135 tourism graduates of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s BTech in Tourism Management programme, who completed their studies between the years 2010 and 2014. Stratified sampling and snowball sampling techniques were used to obtain a representative sample of 40 tourism graduates. Primary data were analysed using Leximancer software. The key findings of the study reveal the majority of the respondents surveyed to be mainly single females which reflect the population of the local tourism industry, of an average age of 27 years, and earning an average monthly salary of R7 007.35. In relation to historical race categories, Africans were the most noticeable compared to other races. The working career of the majority of these tourism graduates was on average four to five years before exiting the industry to pursue a different career. This was attributed to a predominance of precarious tourism work conditions and inaccessibility of decent work as tourism qualifications are apparently not valued in the tourism labour market. The findings underlined that work in tourism covers present financial needs and does not protect employees against possible future unemployment, illness, or old age. Tourism role players should collaborate to establish decent work focus areas as a step towards addressing unfavourable work conditions in the tourism industry. This should mitigate shortages of skilled tourism human resources. The study suggested eight decent work focus areas for addressing poor working conditions and sustainable development towards decent work in the South African tourism industry.