The future of tourism in southern Africa relies not only on its vibrant landscape and incredible wildlife, but its diverse and fabulous people. From hotels to restaurants, from safari lodges to day excursions, it is the people that help to tell the story of Africa and make the memories tourists take home so unforgettable.

When the sun goes down on the savannah the wildlife come to drink at watering holes. In the lodges the tourists also gather. Imagine sipping a manhatten or vodka martini, settled in cane chairs listening to the guides tell stories of the bush. It is an experience that is impossible to put a price on and the perfect thing to take from Africa – very eco-friendly!

Making these moments special is what spurs on students at the SA College for Tourism. The idea of visionary Dr Anton Rupert, the SA College for Tourism opened in 2001 in an attempt to break the poverty cycle for many in rural communities. From small beginnings – just 20 young women that first year – the college now trains around 100 people annually. The year’s training covers all aspects of hospitality, from the kitchen and restaurant to housekeeping, front-office and more. Most of the students are young women and, with 90% of recruits going on after the course to find permanent employment, this course is an important stepping-stone towards improving the quality of life for impoverished families.

The course aims to teach students vitally important, highly sought-after skills for the tourism industry, with graduates able to return to their communities as entrepreneurs with small tourism businesses or to work as part of the local eco-tourism industry within or around conservation areas. As many of the students at the college are also from areas where Peace Parks Foundation works, the hope is that they may return home to these areas and cater well for visitors to these transfrontier conservation areas.