I was privileged to attend a truly positive tourism event recently, writes Tattler Editor Marjorie Dean. This was the Awards and Graduation ceremony for those guesthouse owners who were fortunate enough to participate in the most recent Book-a-Guesthouse Programme run by Tsogo Sun, as part of its Sun Cares initiative.
Tsogo Sun Book-a-Guesthouse is a skills-based entrepreneurial development programme that provides support to black South Africans, particularly women, but also open to men, who operate their own guesthouses. The initiative was first implemented in 2005 and supports over 60 entrepreneurs who own and operate guesthouses in four provinces across South Africa, in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
The Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse programme is the only programme of its kind in South Africa – with 92% of the programme’s members being black South African women. Through the programme, Tsogo Sun has contributed directly to the creation of 258 jobs and indirectly to the creation of more than 2000 jobs in the value chain since the programme’s inception. 92% of the guesthouses supported by the programme have shown sustained growth since joining. The programme has provided 84 formal training interventions to members, as well as 2 880 instances of individual business support and coaching during the last twelve months.
Book-a-Guesthouse is positioned within Tsogo Sun’s SunCares programme, which was launched in July 2012 as Tsogo Sun’s commitment to sustainability in tourism plan, incorporating entrepreneurial development, community relations, and environmental management. All initiatives within SunCares are united and enable Tsogo Sun to serve as a catalyst for change within every aspect of its upliftment and environmental programmes.
The Awards Dinner was held at the Bill Gallagher Room in the Sandton ICC, which is managed by Tsogo Sun. In his address, Rob Collins, Chief marketing officer of Tsogo Sun, spoke of the fact that the group felt it had to do a bit more than just give money to social development – it tried to give hope! The group is very large nowadays, looking after 45 million guests a year, in its 94 hotels, 15 casinos and numerous tourist attractions. But it wanted to contribute meaningfully to creating shared value with the community, and in a way that is measurable.
Participants are carefully selected as being those most able to benefit from the programme. All seventeen participants had completed Guest House Management courses run by the University of Cape Town, and were awarded their graduation certificates, to huge applause. Rob congratulated all those who were graduating, and reminded them that as entrepreneurs they were the people who were responsible for making change happen.
Tsogo Sun was delighted to showcase its five 2013 finalists: Florence Mondi of Flossie’s B&B in Soweto, Pam Maistry of Taunton House in Pietermaritzburg, Siphiwe Nhlapo of Temaswati Guesthouse in Meredale, Emmah Makatu of Zwinoni Lodge in Milnerton Ridge and Lizzy Mphahlele of Lizvilla B&B in Acacia.
Tsogo Sun hosted these five elegant and industrious entrepreneurs at Montecasino for a two day coaching workshop to prepare them for their role as Guesthouse of the Year, should they win. The workshop was a whirlwind of specialised training sessions, media interviews, cameras rolling, coaching activities, lunches and dinners with well-known South African businesswomen.
The overall winner was Emmah Makatu of Zwinoni Lodge, Milnerton Ridge, located adjacent to the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Zwinoni – which means ‘birds’ in Venda – is a favourite for bird-watchers and guests seeking beauty, luxury and tranquillity. Zwinoni Lodge was built by Emmah on a good-sized 1 200 square metre property with the idea of living there and running her tax and accounting consultancy from the premises. But she then decided it was a perfect place for a guesthouse. Zwinoni has 10 elegant bedrooms, all en suite, and overlooking the beautiful gardens. It also features a conference room for about 25 people, as well as outside braai facilities. The guesthouse is just about fully booked from December through to the end of February with business people, bird watchers, and some international tourists, while the Easter holidays bring in flocks of Gautengers.
Emmah has been with Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse since 2010 and is deeply impressed by the organisation’s offering to entrepreneurs. “Most of my time with Book a Guesthouse has featured highlights of one sort or another – the excellent training, the annual conferences, interacting with other women entrepreneurs, as well as with directors of Tsogo Sun, the internet services, and more. Last year I bought a second guesthouse, a four-bedroomed property overlooking the sea, called The Penthouse, which caters for the corporate market. It was only on the strength of being a member of Book a Guesthouse that I had the know-how and confidence to make this investment.”
Emmah has a staff of four full-time people and four part-timers who help with special events at both of the properties.
Tsogo Sun’s partners on the course were: Johannesburg Tourism Company; Limpopo Parks and Tourism Board; Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency; Nestlé Professional; South African Chefs Association; Stone; Tourism Grading Council of SA; Tourism KwaZulu Natal; and Wesgro.
For more information about Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse, go to www.bookaguesthouse.com