The use of soft systems thinking as a process of inquiry to identify a relevant system to facilitate the change process of tourism education and training a tertiary institution in KwaZulu-Natal.
Tourism is globally rated as the World's biggest industry by gross domestic product. In South Africa it is hoped that the tourism industry will show growth that will positively affect the economy of the country. In particular, as tourism is noted as a labour intensive industry, it is expected that growth in this sector will create many jobs. In order to support this growth this study examines the need for tourism tertiary education and in particular how the use of soft systems methodologies is able to guide the management team of a tertiary institution as it re-examines the responses of the institution to influences that surround tertiary tourism education. The problem of tertiary tourism education proves to be particularly complex and unstructured in that it requires the coordination of many traditional disciplines that are each able to contribute elements to the study of tourism. Stemming from conventional scientific method a tradition of isolationism has evolved whereby individual elements of the tourism system operate independently with little interaction with other elements. Systems thinking recognises the interdependence and interrelatedness of all the elements in a system not least human elements. Although traditionally excluded from study, the subjective values and beliefs of people are actively solicited by systems thinkers who propose that only by embracing these beliefs, in a value full inquiry, is it possible to establish a self learning and self modifying education system suited to the changing demands of a turbulent industry such as tourism. The primary purpose of this work is to use systems thinking to build and implement a framework for improvement by restructuring tourism education in a large tertiary institution. The research intends to plot the course of change and organisational learning as the tertiary institution endeavours to re-align itself to the ever changing requirements of its customers. The dissertation does not seek, nor does it find, a neat packaged solution to the messy problem of tertiary tourism education in KwaZulu-Natal. This is not in the nature of soft systems thinking, which is about inquiry and better ways of seeing, and not primarily about proving or disproving hypotheses.