Tourism levels in South Africa are at an all-time high and according to the World Travel and Tourism Council it’s believed that this industry will contribute more to the country’s economy this year than any other year. But international visitors don’t just flock to South Africa for its picturesque wine farms, the Big 5 or its idyllic beaches.
Instead, Bushwise – a world-class post-matric training academy that focuses on field guide training programmes – is another reason young, international students make their way to South Africa for upskilling in a non-traditional industry. And academy founder, Sophie Niemann says its international student in-take has remained steady since 2012, which she describes as “exciting and reassuring”.
“The fact that students from outside South Africa are coming here to further their education in this niche industry is wonderful. It bodes so well for tourism in our country and places South Africa on an international stage. Further, it demonstrates that Bushwise is recognised as leaders in this industry as well,” Niemann says.
Bushwise gives students the unique opportunity to explore the “best South Africa has to offer”, discover the wild and learn various industry subjects including: guiding principles, animal behaviour, biomes, climate, as well as hospitality in the game lodge industry. In return, Niemann says Bushwise Recruitment, through its vast industry network, assists with securing employment for its graduates at some of the country’s most prestigious lodges.
And though securing employment for South African students remain the academy’s first priority, Niemann says international graduates make an equally positive contribution to the industry outside of the country, despite not being employed here.
“The knowledge international student’s gain during the programme develops them into South African ambassadors who would easily be able to articulate the beauty of our natural resources and the enriching experiences tourists can have here. It’s also the stepping stone for their careers in international conservation,” she says.
Niemann says many of Bushwise’s international students also go back home and engage in public discussions on their experiences in South Africa and the value of studying towards this qualification in a country well-known around the world for its wildlife.
“The fact that we have these men and women from all over the world are coming here for a purpose, achieving that and going back home and promoting not only the programme but the country as a whole is wonderful, and continues to build SA’s reputation globally, which is exactly what we need as a nation,” she says.
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