An investigation into cross-border tourist guiding in southern Africa, undertaken by the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies and commissioned by the National Department of Tourism (NDT), is yielding interesting and surprising results.
Prof Karen Harris is leading the research project with three postgraduate students, Charlene Herselman, Jane Dewah and Richard Wyllie. According to Prof Harris, this project has evolved beyond merely investigating the concept of developing an innovative training programme for cross-border tourist guides. She points out that many regions in the world rely on supranational alliances to increase their tourism competitiveness.
'After all, tourists often travel to visit more than one country on a single trip and this type of tourism has promoted regions like the European Union and North America. Southern Africa has much to offer tourists in terms of regional natural beauty and diverse cultures, yet the lack of a harmonised tour guiding system, among other things, greatly limits regional cooperation for tourism.'
The research project consists of four phases, three of which have been completed. The first phase was an exploratory study on understanding cross-border tourism and tourist guiding, and considered the current situation in southern Africa. The second phase analysed tourist guide training programmes, accreditation processes and legal requirements in seven of the Southern African Development Community's member states. The third phase sought to identify possible avenues to harmonise tourist guide training regulations and standards, while the fourth will seek to develop a harmonised tourist guide training programme to provide a solution to the problems associated with cross-border tourism in southern Africa. It will also look at creating 'tourism-scapes' as themed experiences for the potential cross-border tourist.
Prof Harris notes that, at the conclusion of the research, this project could realistically generate employment in one of the fastest growing sectors on the African continent and establish southern Africa as a prominent destination dedicated to tourism excellence.