Tourism Innovation and Sustainability: Implications for Skills Development in South Africa

  • Irma BooyensEmail author
  • Shirin Motala
  • Stewart Ngandu
Part of the Geographies of Tourism and Global Change book series (GTGC)


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.


Tourism and hospitality Sustainable human resource management Innovation capabilities Management competencies Skills development Career mobility 



We acknowledge the National Department of Tourism in South Africa that funded the research on which this chapter is based. We also acknowledge colleagues in the Economic Performance and Development unit at the Human Sciences Research Council who collaborated with us and we thank the respondents who participated in this study. This is our own original—the views expressed are ours and do not reflect those of any other party.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Work, Employment and OrganisationStrathclyde Business School, University of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Human Sciences Research CouncilPretoriaSouth Africa

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