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Tourism, Hospitality and Youth Participation: A golden opportunity or a long shot?

Tourism, Hospitality and Youth Participation: A golden opportunity or a long shot? November 26 to December witnessed the celebration of Rwanda Tourism Week.

The week was run under the theme ‘Adopting Innovative Approaches to Boost Intra-Africa travel as a drive for Tourism Business Recovery.’

The Africa Tourism Business Forum was held at the Kigali Serena Hotel. This two-day gathering brought about various issues on how to revamp the Tourism and Hospitality sector.

It was important to cross-examine the participation of youth in this process and how best youth can play a part in the development of the tourism sector.

From discussions held at the Africa Tourism Business Forum, young people are said not to be part of the tourism and hospitality industry.

Reasons like lack of interest, ignorance, lack of information and families have been named amongst other reasons why young people are not participating in the tourism sector.

As we dug deeper, it was observed that young people are actively playing a part in the tourism industries but in low-ranking jobs. You find that most young people are waiters/waitresses, busboys/bus girls, cleaners, gardeners, and receptionists amongst other low-paying and low-impact jobs occupied by young people.

Frank Gisha, Director-General of the Rwanda Tourism Chamber, acknowledged this as well, stating that most investors, managers, and business owners in the tourism industry are not young people.
Frank Mustaff, Managing Director of Horwath HTL East Africa, agreed that young people are desperately needed in this industry with enormous international potential.

He stated that young people do not consider this industry to be one of their dream jobs because they believe that the only jobs available are low-paying ones.

He stated that it is something that must be changed. “They must change their mindset; the hospitality and tourism industries offer tremendous opportunities. It is a worldwide business.”

“There are a lot of careers in this industry, and successful work will be related to your attitude and behaviour,” explained Frank Mustaff. “There are so many jobs in the industry like innovating, marketing, IT, and many others; it’s not just about the ‘dirty’ work.”

We could then argue that young people play a critical role in enabling themselves to fully implement their ideas and be heard as the tourism industry develops.

Moreover, as we work together to adopt innovative approaches to boost intra-Africa travel as a driver for tourism business recovery, it is critical that young people begin to get involved in a variety of ways.

Those who can invest in tourism education understand the importance of developing and improving contemporary and relevant skills for young people. Attempt to participate in decision-making in order to have their voices and ideas heard.

There are many projections and initiatives being made for youth empowerment, such as subsidizing the tourism education system to allow youth easy access to quality education.

There are also different programmes Hanga Ahazaza, Tourism Inc by Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners programmes and many others.

There are also joint efforts with young people to promote local destinations as tourist destinations.
It is up to the young people in this sector to seize various opportunities and contribute to the projections for their collective future.

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