The study group has been in existence for over 50 years and convenes in different countries across the globe. The group was launched in South Africa in 2004. This year Dr Shabalala and other industry leaders were part of a five-day virtual workshop hosted by the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).
Participants were given an industry problem and Dr Shabalala was tasked to investigate how customised packages of tourism products and services can be utilised to mitigate the challenge of catering for the domestic market, minimise travel cost and maximise revenue. The title of her findings was: The value of the domestic tourist towards Travel and Tourism Industry: Case of Mpumalanga Province.
“Generally, the tourism industry tourism on international tourists. Due to the current global pandemic, however, domestic tourists are considered as a means to save the local and national tourism industry. The development of a practical mathematical model that can be adopted to try to address the presented situation is vital,” she says.
“Since the world was forced to close international travel, to revive the travel and tourism Industry intra-tourism, followed by inter-tourism, were opened with strict restrictions which were to be adhered to by tourists, the establishments and service providers. Active domestic tourism became key to the efforts to save the collapsing industry. Without a doubt, the value of domestic tourism is evident.”
"As the tourism industry representative, I am happy with the work done so far and the team is committed to working with me until the findings are achieved."
Dr Shabalala says that on the first-day the industry representatives outlined the problems posed by the local industry. Each industry representative made a 20-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of questions. During the session, applied mathematicians and graduate students worked virtually in small groups on the problems of their choice for four days, while on the fifth day they reported back to the industry on the progress they had made.
“I got involved with MISG during my previous stint at Wits. I administered the logistics of the Study Group from 2013 to 2017 February. As I was still a PhD candidate under the Faculty of Science, in the year 2020, I was approached by Prof David Mason to develop a tourism research problem with a COVID-19 aspect."
"The developed research problem was approved by the organising committee and I presented it on the 1st of February. I participated as a Wits Alumni and UMP nGAP staff member,” she says.
This year’s study group was sponsored by The Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Science, Wits University, as well as The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).
@ By Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures Supplied.