Young people from across the country will get to see what's available in tourism careers when the National Tourism Careers Expo starts later this month.
The careers expo was launched on Thursday in Virginia, Free State, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and the provincial Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs in the Free State (DESTEA).
The Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) also participated in the launch.
The actual careers expo will be held in Bloemfontein from 28 - 30 September, under the theme 'Tourism alive with Opportunities'.
Tourism Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe said low levels of youth participation in the mainstream economy and youth unemployment are the reason behind the early launch of the expo.
"We are on a drive to expose young people from high schools, Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and universities to existing professions and exciting career opportunities within the tourism industry in order to drive South Africa's National Tourism Sector Strategy's goal of creating 225 000 tourism jobs opportunities by 2030," the Deputy Minister said.
The expo is designed to empower thousands of learners across the country with information on tourism as a career choice through funding opportunities such as learnerships, internships, bursaries and life skills programmes.
DESTEA Acting Deputy Director General, Dr Mbulelo Nokwequ, said the expo is riding on the wave of Tourism Month festivities.
"We have already mobilised and pre-registered over 9 000 delegates for the 2017 National Tourism Career Expo. We want this year's expo to be the biggest and most memorable and attract industry players and potential employers from big hotel groups," said Nokwequ.
The Hilton Group's Peter Thomas said they are delighted to be part of one of the most iconic career events in South African tourism.
"We are really happy to be partnering in this career expo, as we are committed to youth development. In 2014 in Switzerland, we made a commitment to create opportunities for one million youths across the world. We do that by connecting them to the world of travel so that they can experience new cultures and contribute to the sustainability of the industry.
"We encourage our industry partners like hotel chains, B&Bs and lodges to be part of this event in order to open doors for young people and make a meaningful contribution to job creation," Thomas said.
The expo alternates between provinces on a three-year cycle. Launched in 2008 in KwaZulu-Natal, it then moved to the Eastern Cape, and is now being hosted for the third and final year in the Free State.
Deputy Minister Thabethe thanked all the programme's partners for the continued support over the years.