Aligning private higher education with the needs of the local tourism industry
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There is a considerable gap between what is provided by tourism education providers and the needs expressed by the industry. Literature pertaining to private higher education institutions based in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) curriculum provision is very limited. Therefore, this study sought to determine whether tourism qualifications offered at registered private higher education institutions in KZN are aligned with the needs of the local tourism industry. This study accordingly identified and investigated the gaps between the needs of the local tourism industry and the core tourism curriculum offered at private institutions. In addition, the study closely examined the curricula offered by analysing and comparing the similarities and differences between the tourism curriculums of each private institution. In order to provide solutions and recommendations for future curriculum development, stakeholder’s views on what a tourism curriculum offered at private higher education institutions should entail was evaluated. Respondents comprised of managers from selected sectors of the local tourism industry, tourism graduates, tourism curriculum designers and tourism academics of the selected private higher education institutions. To achieve the first and third objective, a mixed-methods approach was adapted. This empirical study utilised electronic surveys to obtain a sample of 164 participants. A document analysis entailing thematic analysis was also complied to address the second objective. The findings revealed that there are more similarities amongst the education providers’ formal curriculum content than differences. However, the tourism curricula on offer by all the sampled private higher education institutions were observed not to align with the needs of the local tourism industry. Therefore, this study identified numerous gaps between the needs of the local tourism industry and the provisions by private higher education institutions. The misalignment was found to be attributable to multiple factors for which recommendations are made.