Language and tourism in South Africa: Insights from the Xhariep
Hass, Atrimecia Bernadate
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The success of any tourism business depends on the ability to communicate effectively with customers. Competence in English is no longer adequate to find a job in the tourism industry. The aim of the study is to address the gap in research by investigating the interplay of language and tourist experiences by examining the link between pleasant tourist experiences and foreign language knowledge. The study draws on Halliday’s (1994) Genre theory and Bhatia’s (2004) Interdiscursivity theory in understanding the importance of language for tourism purposes. Furthermore, the Interdiscursivity theory enables one to analyse the discursive realities of the social world─ showing us that language forms part of the identity of a person and learning a new language cannot be isolated from the social context. For this purpose, the study employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The efforts of tourism businesses and their willingness to solve language barriers in the tourism industry were examined through semi-structured interviews with 15 tourism businesses inclusive of owners and managers. The interviews also determined the commitment of the tourism establishments at the Gariep Dam to accommodate the language needs of both local and international tourists. In addition to the qualitative data collected, quantitative data was obtained through 400 questionnaires from both domestic and international tourists at the Gariep Dam. The results identified a gap between tourism training institutions to match the skills needed by the tourism industry. There is a demand for foreign language skills to respond to the needs of the growing tourism industry. Despite the significant growth in foreign visitors, most tourism businesses are reluctant to appoint staff based on foreign language skills. In conclusion, the study argues that tourism businesses need to start paying attention to the language issue and that language barriers could have been solved if tourism businesses had clear written language policies in place. Lastly, foreign language skills should be considered as an employment criterion for employees in the tourism industry and businesses should provide foreign language training to existing staff.