Tourism innovation and sustainability: implications for skills development in South Africa

Irma Booyens, Shirin Motala, Stewart Ngandu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter interrogates human resource competencies vis-à-vis innovation in tourism which is an under-researched topic in the tourism literature. Innovation is pertinent not only for competitiveness for tourism firms and destinations, but also for enhancing environmental protection and social benefits in view of sustainable tourism. Innovation is a knowledge-intensive activity which depends on the capabilities of entrepreneurs and employees to learn and implement knowledge to create new and improved ways of doing things. In order to innovate, a specific set of skills is needed which include management competencies with a particular emphasis on leadership, strategic orientation, professionalism and finance management. Data from a national study in South Africa which investigated human resource and skills development in tourism are analysed. The findings reveal critical skills gaps in relation to financial, management and soft skills required for innovation across tourism and hospitality occupational levels and sub-sectors. From a human resource development perspective, issues concerning upskilling and upward career mobility in tourism are also interrogated. This chapter argues for targeted human resource development to foster tourism innovation and support tourism SMEs by enhancing management competencies and offering mentorships. In particular, it is proposed that tourism policy has a role in drawing attention to the importance of improved soft skills development in tourism among tourism and hospitality stakeholders. The chapter contributes to literature and policy debates by offering an enhanced understanding of competencies and skills, as well as policy interventions, needed for tourism and service innovation more broadly in the light of sustainable human resource management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Human Resource Management in Tourism
Subtitle of host publicationAfrican Perspectives
EditorsTom Baum, Ann Ndiuini
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-41734-5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameGeographies of Tourism and Global Change


  • tourism and hospitality industry
  • sustainable human resources
  • innovation capabilities
  • management competencies
  • skills development
  • career mobility


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