In 2015 Gabon’s tourism sector directly supported 4000 jobs, accounting for 1% of total employment, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. With the rollout of the National Tourism Strategy (Stratégie Nationale du Tourisme, SNT) 2015-25, authorities expect the tourism sector to create around 20,000 jobs by 2025, an ambitious goal requiring additional capacity in terms of education and training. As Gabon looks to develop as a high-end destination, a greater focus on quality of service will also be necessary for the local hospitality sector.
Gabon’s education system trains approximately 500 students in tourism annually. Most of these students are enrolled in private institutions such as the Ecole Supérieure du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie, Centre Ondimba, Ecole Supérieur des Arts et Métiers and Institut National des Sciences de Gestion. In recent years, new curricula have been developed to improve the supply of qualified graduates to the developing tourism sector.
“In recent years, we have seen a gradual specialisation of tourism training programmes,” Joseph Ebang Essono, director-general of tourism at the Ministry of Private Investment Promotion, Commerce, Tourism and Industry, told OBG. “Most universities and business schools have developed more specific curricula, such as master’s programmes for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions segment.”
However, further efforts are still needed to raise standards and meet demand for qualified staff. “In general, curricula require less theory and more practice, so students develop a real know-how. Additionally, we need universities and schools to cooperate with tourism authorities to widen the span of training programmes in order to train students in areas where human resources are specifically needed, such as sales staff, contractors or programmers,” Ebang added.
A New Partnership
In a bid to boost tourism-related training, the Ministry of Education signed a partnership with Swiss group Rainbow Unlimited in October 2015 to set up a tourism and hospitality school in Cap Estérias, a tourism spot in the vicinity of Libreville. As part of the agreement, Rainbow Unlimited will assess the training needs of Gabon’s tourism operators and implement the corresponding training programmes, while the Ministry of Education will provide the physical infrastructure – a three-star hotel that is under construction by the National Agency for Public Infrastructure Works and has a capacity to train 30 students. “We expect the Cap Estérias tourism school to become a centre of excellence in Gabon and in the sub-region, and to improve students’ access to careers in this promising sector,” Thomas Seghezzi, associate manager at Rainbow Unlimited, told local media.
According to the SNT, the training programmes will be supervised by the Gabonese Agency for the Development and Promotion of Tourism and Hospitality (Agence Gabonaise de Développement et de la Promotion du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie, Agatour), and further partnerships with private institutions will be developed to foster apprenticeship and internships.
Gabon’s ecoguides, meanwhile, follow a training programme offered by the National Agency for National Parks (Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, ANPN) in partnership with US-based Wildlife Conservation Society. Within the SNT, authorities are planning to train 50 professional ecoguides per year by 2025. To reach this goal, in addition to the existing two-year training programme delivered by the ANPN, authorities are looking to develop an accelerated training scheme for guides from local communities.
As part of the SNT, authorities are seeking to enhance professional standards across the tourism sector’s value chain. To this end, in September 2015 Agatour proposed a series of training programmes for travel agencies, hospitality organisations and transportation companies to improve hotel management standards and the entire sector’s quality of service.
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