Côte d’Ivoire has been on a gradual recovery following a decade of political instability and the attack at Grand-Bassam in March 2016. While both situations drove out businesses and tourists alike, the country is taking steps to ensure the now burgeoning sector is supported as travellers return. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2015 tourism accounted for CFA836.8bn (€1.25bn), or 4.5% of GDP. This figure is projected to rise by 5.8% per year through to 2026, while jobs in the industry are expected to grow at a similar rate. The WTTC is forecasting average annual growth of 2.6% in direct employment and 2.8% in indirect employment over the next 10 years. In 2015, tourism in Côte d’Ivoire directly supported 101,000 jobs, accounting for 1.9% of total employment. The sector’s total contribution accounted for 207,500 jobs, or 4% of the total labour force.
To bring supply in line with demand, and enhance the quality of service in a sector that remains 60% dominated by business travellers, the country recently saw the opening of a new hotel management school. Inaugurated in July 2016, the Hotel School of Grand-Bassam (Ecole Hotelière de Grand-Bassam, EHB) is a CFA1.2bn (€1.8m) investment located in Grand-Bassam, around 40 km south of Abidjan. The EHB was established by a partnership between the Ivory Coast Training Company, Morocco’s Casablanca Hotel School and the Geneva Hotel School. The establishment, which is the first of its kind in West Africa, can accommodate up to 300 students per academic year and offers three different types of diplomas, which are expected to be complemented by a master’s programme in the future. “The construction of a hotel and catering school addresses the shortage in quality skills within the tourism sector,” Germain Ollo, president of the EHB, told OBG. “The industry welcomes this new initiative to train quality personnel for the existing hotel establishments and for the new ones to come. Traditionally, hotel staff have not performed at a level that is on par with international tourism standards, with many establishments finding it hard to employ qualified personnel and often resorting to in-house training, and thereby straining hotel capacities,” he added. Côte d’Ivoire is being confronted with challenges common to many sub-Saharan countries when it comes to staffing in the tourism industry, with ageing personnel and unqualified labour among the younger generations. As a result, the establishment of the school has been a much anticipated one, as the country’s tourism sector has displayed considerable growth in recent years. International tourist arrivals increased from 269,810 in 2011 to 470,809 in 2014, generating increased demand in the hospitality sector, as well as other tourism and travel related services such as catering and transportation. That said, some regions continue to grapple with limited capacity, such as in Grand-Bassam, suggesting further room for growth. “The city of Grand-Bassam’s current hotel capacity stands at around 600 rooms, with an estimated deficit of between 300-400 units,” Ollo told OBG.
With ongoing renovations at existing hotels and a number of new ones in the pipeline, it is an opportune time for Côte d’Ivoire to invest in new job openings in the hotel industry. Adequate training and professionalism will be crucial in meeting the requirements of business clientele – that are likely to continue to dominate the industry – while other niches, such as beach tourism and ecotourism, mature. “As the segment with most potential, business tourism is the most demanding in terms of quality of service and know-how. Business tourism does not leave room for error, and therefore, proper training and education is needed,” Ollo told OBG. Security will also play a significant role in bringing the industry back on its feet as it continues to recover from recent turmoil and political violence causing instability. The latter, in particular, constitutes one crucial component for the future of jobs and training in the near to medium term.
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