Passionate about lifting lifestyles through the hospitality industry, the SA College for Tourism specifically recruits impoverished, unskilled young people in southern Africa for their year-long courses in hospitality. Students learn 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. The idea is to grant opportunities to learners from rural areas in order to break the poverty cycle.

Many students are from areas where Peace Parks Foundation works and many return home to these areas to cater for visitors to the transfrontier conservation areas. The aim is for these areas to become self-sustainable over the long-term, so it is vital to develop highly trained people whose service can match the high-quality tourist offerings. So, whether in tracking, herding or hospitality, students play an important role the future of eco-tourism throughout southern Africa.

A one year’s course in hospitality covers all aspects from the kitchen and restaurant to housekeeping, front-office and more. With most of the students young women and, with 90% of recruits going on after the course to find permanent employment, this course is an important stepping stone towards a better quality of life for impoverished families. One striking example is Zingisa Patso, who, with the college’s help, has worked her way up to sous-chef at the world renowned Drostdy Hotel in Graaff-Reinet.

It is not only young women whose lives are transformed. Many men choose to train at the Tracker Academy alongside master trackers like Pokkie Benade and Alex van der Heever to study the tracks and signs wildlife leave behind. Guided bush walks and game drives really bring the bush to life for tourists unable to penetrate the incredible environment of southern Africa. They also play a vital role in wildlife protection and monitoring, often working with rangers and researchers to follow lion, rhino or leopard.

With around one in twenty people living in Africa directly relying on the tourism industry for employment, this sector is vital to southern Africa’s future.

Peace Parks is extremely proud of the dedication and hard work of all the students.