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Deck the halls: Festive season set to boost Western Cape economy

The festive season is just around the corner – and, along with the crowds of tourists, it is expected to bring the Western Cape economy an annual boost in the form of tourism spend and job creation.

Cape Town’s tourism industry has been growing steadily over the last few years, most notably during the busy festive periods. The first phase of a study commissioned by the City of Cape Town reveals that direct spend on tourism in Cape Town has grown at 5.6% per annum between 2009 and 2012. The research, conducted by Grant Thornton, shows that the city’s tourism industry generated R14.6 billion in 2012, up from R12.4 billion in 2009.

In addition to tourism spend, this industry growth has had a hugely positive impact on job creation in the Western Cape. The research found that Cape Town’s tourism industry creates the majority of jobs in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories, where employment is most needed.

Approximately 19 000 permanent and 12 000 temporary workers are employed by the City’s tourism industry in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories. When the medium and high level employment categories are included, that total rises to 34 500 permanent and 15 000 temporary employees.

It is the festive season that is largely responsible for the temporary employment creation.

Carole Hooper Armstrong, Chair of FEDHASA Cape’s Small Accommodation segment and owner of the Highlands Country House, notes that, while it is imperative to maintain a steady stream of bookings throughout the year if your establishment is to be successful, the festive season is undoubtedly the most important season from an income point of view.

“The income generated in the festive season provides a cushion for the leaner times in the second and third quarters of the year,” says Armstrong.

Not only are new employees hired during this period, but large-scale efforts are made within tourism establishments to upskill and train their existing employees.

Chris Godenir, Alternate Chair of FEDHASA Cape’s Hotel segment and General Manager at the Peninsula All-Suite Hotel in Cape Town, notes that staffing levels definitely increase during this period, and that staff are given additional training with performance incentives. He explains that all team members recently attended courses delivered by Uniskills Africa, a training company offering certified programmes from the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA).

“We have a comprehensive Work Place Skills Plan put together annually, and staff are given refreshers in health and safety training as a priority during the festive season,” Godenir comments.

In order to increase capacity during the festive period, Armstrong explains that Highlands Country House upgrades guests into room “gaps” so as to be able to take additional bookings. According to Godenir, the Peninsula hires two permanent vehicles to facilitate drop-offs and collections, and that an additional 16 seasonal staff are hired as child minders, life guards and guest relations officers.  He adds that, in preparation for the festive season, the Peninsula puts together a full entertainment programme with activities arranged hourly for both adults and children.

The busy season comes with its own set of challenges, as well as opportunities, however. Armstrong lists family bookings with extra beds and quick turnaround of rooms as the Highland’s challenges, while Godenir quotes traffic, security and health and safety risks due to the increase in the volume of people.

In order to manage the challenges that come with an increase in tourists, and, on the other side of the coin, to take full advantage of the opportunities that come with the crowds, Armstrong believes that the best place to start a FEDHASA Cape membership. All members have access to workshops, in conjunction with the HR Forum, which provide rich information, training and guidance in terms of staff management.

“Decking the halls in preparation for the festive season starts with knowing how best to do so,” she says.

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