Design thinking as a strategic lever in promoting tourism in KwaZulu-Natal.
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Countries on the African continent, most notably South Africa, have not been immune to global economic issues with the present bout of change globally, which is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. The creation of jobs for the unemployed remains South Africa's biggest challenge. Over the last few years, South Africa has experienced a sharp decline in growth and a significant increase in unemployment. Tourism in South Africa is a key enabler in supporting Local Economic Development (LED), job creation and improved living standards, and this sector requires a joint effort within it to address any concerns that may impede the economy's progress. Design thinking, a problem-solving tool, is an important technique around which organisations may build their strategy to solve problems and challenges. The main aim of the study was to identify the role of design thinking in the tourism sector by first understanding the challenges experienced within this sector currently and in the recent past. The design thinking process was presented to understand how this technique could assist in resolving the challenges of the tourism sector. Focus groups and interviews were used to collect data. For this study, the sample population consisted of 21 participants who were specifically chosen for their experience in the tourism sector. The study outcome resulted in the identification of seven key factors that can influence design thinking in the tourism sector. In addition, nine contributing factors influenced design thinking in leadership. The study also revealed nine key initiatives to drive design thinking in the tourism sector. The main contributions of this study were that it established the presence of design thinking in the tourism sector, whilst also highlighting the role of collaboration. The results of the research also show how effectively leadership and design thinking combined, with the former being able to use the traits to develop a variety of tactics and strategic outcomes. The key recommendations emanating from this study indicate that design thinking should be implemented at all levels of tourism, while the role of leadership is critical in ensuring that proper strategies ae developed to realise the objectives of the industry.