An analysis of management skills within graded establishments in South Africa
Wessels, Walter Johan
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The tourism industry is one of the biggest economic contributors in South Africa and it is predicted that the industry will grow significantly over the years to come. This growth pressures South Africa to stay competitive and adhere to the needs of the visitors. The latter being one of the core functions of any tourism establishment. Labour structures in the tourism industry are constantly changing and to deliver quality products, employees should be well skilled and prepared for the demands of the industry. The accommodation sector, one of the biggest sectors in the tourism industry, provides a variety of services to tourists when visiting this country. It was determined in the literature review that the skills needed by an accommodation manager, to provide the expected services include flexibility, people skills, the ability to train other employees and the ability to explore the ever changing needs of the tourist. Higher education organisations in South Africa educate potential tourism employees in a variety of skills and knowledge. However, some employees are still of the opinion that these students are not adequately prepared for the demands of the industry and therefore complain. Added to this, there is very little communication between the industry and higher education organisations. Therefore the tourism industry feels that students are not employable which creates challenges for students, higher education organisations and the tourism industry. Education and skills development should contribute directly to the economic growth of South Africa and the government, a very important role player in the tourism industry, encourages education opportunities in South Africa. Therefore, the aim of this study is to determine, through industry participitation, what the management skills required within graded establishments in South Africa are. To achieve this aim, the following objectives were set: To analyse the literature available regarding the managerial theories, managerial levels, managerial processes and universal skills needed by managers, to analyse the tourism industry and hospitality sector, identify the important role played by managerial skills within this sector and to identify higher education programmes available in South Africa that focus specifically on managerial skills development for the accommodation sector. Thirdly, to collect and analyse the perceptions of accommodation owners and managers regarding the managerial skills and knowledge required by graduate managerial employees and then to draw conclusions and make recommendations to higher education organisations to adapt tourism management qualification programmes. This was achieved by making use of a quantitative research method by means of self-administered questionnaires, distributed to 254 Tourism Grading Counsil of South Africa’s (TGCSA) graded establishment managers in the nine (9) provinces of South Africa. The data, gathered from the questionnaire, was captured electronically by an online programme, SurveyMonkey. The data was then processed by means of SPSS and analysed. The descriptive results revealed that most of the responding accommodation establishments do employ graduates, but these graduates have to display certain characteristics. The top three characteristics for an accommodation manager included trustworthiness, responsibility and motivation in that order. Being ambitious, intelligent and sensitive rated the lowest. A factor analysis revealed that there are 10 important factors that contributes to being an effective accommodation manager. These skills included: 1) Personal characteristics, 2) Forecasting skills, 3) Strategic management skills, 4) Human resource skills, 5) Problem solving and crisis management skills, 6) Communication skills, 7) Information technology skills, 8) Customer service skills, 9) Financial skills and 10) Marketing skills. The comparisons (by means of ANOVA’s, t-tests and spearman rank order correlations) between skills needed by an accommodation manager and selected business characteristics (the province in which the accommodation establishment is located, the grading status, the size, the number of employees and the years that the accommodation establishment has been in operation) are unique to this study and various significant differences were identified. Comparisons have also been done between skills needed by an accommodation manager and selected personal characteristics (age, current position, duration of employment, level of higher education and the necessity of practical skills before employment of the respondent) which also revealed significant differences. The highest number of significant differences was identified for larger establishments, age, position of the respondents and the duration of employment. The results of this study can be used by higher education organisations to adapt their current tourism management qualifications, and by accommodation establishments to understand the training needs of employees. It did however voice the concerns of industry role players when it comes to new graduates and their employability.