As the South African hospitality industry’s largest group of black women entrepreneurs – the 60 female guesthouse owners in Tsogo Sun’s Book-a-Guesthouse programme – prepare for the announcement of the 2013 Guesthouse of the Year awards, Salome Tshungu owner of The Orchards Executive Accommodation and winner of Tsogo Sun’s Guesthouse of the Year Award in 2012 reflects on her year as the 2012 winner and Tsogo Sun’s entrepreneurial development programme.
“Always be ready to learn” says Salome. It’s a philosophy that, together with her hands-on approach and her heart for people, has paid off in her life and saw her qualifying with a Certificate for the UCT Guest House Management Course from the University of Cape Town in 2010.
Salome was born to live a people-centred life. In rural Limpopo in a village called Wisconsin where Salome and her six sisters and brother were raised, the family’s home was a known and welcome stopover for people from distant villages who had walked long distances to retrieve their livestock from feeding pastures beyond their village. Salome remembers, “My father was a school teacher and my mother had studied domestic science. We had an outside room that was kept clean and comfortable for people seeking rest for the night. There was always a pot of food available and my mother’s homemade soap for them to wash with.”
This early training was then underscored by her high schooling at Our Lady’s College, a Roman Catholic school near Polokwane. “We were taught to be industrious and self-sufficient, while also studying nine subjects. We all passed matric well and turned out to be extremely independent,” explains Salome.
Salome embarked on a career of nursing, studying first at Baragwanath and then moving to the Elim Swiss Mission Hospital near Makhado (Louis Trichardt). After four years at Elim, Salome started her B. Admin at the University of Fort Hare in 1978, majoring in Personnel Management. During this time, Salome met and married Cliff and their two children were born.
After many years of working in human resources in different industries, Salome was itching to do her own thing. “In 1993 I obtained a Coverall SA franchise and began a cleaning business. We did well and were soon undertaking major cleaning jobs at various leading organisations. Then came a special turning point in my life. We had a cleaning contract in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, and a colleague and I had to stay at a guesthouse. It was the worst overnight stay I had ever experienced. That was when I decided that travellers to the town, especially black travellers, deserved a better experience. I bought a large house with an orchard of fruit trees – and the first The Orchards Executive Accommodation Guesthouse opened its doors in Ermelo.”
In 2006 Salome decided it was time to give up her cleaning business and invest in another guesthouse, this time in Gauteng. She started her search in Midrand and came upon the derelict and rundown house and garden that is now the beautiful premises of The Orchards Executive Accommodation in Glen Austen, Midrand. They bought it and the hard work began. It took more than a year to clean up the garden and repair the house to Salome’s standards.
It opened and in a short time had become a popular stopover for short and long stays by international and local travellers from many organisations. A notable feature of The Orchards is a lack of a reception area; Salome wants to maintain a homely feel as far as possible.
Salome has steadily made dramatic improvements to the property in the intervening years. She first created ‘The Village’, a selection of brightly Ndebele-painted thatched rondawels reminiscent of rural South Africa, each one representing one of the lesser known ethnic groups of South Africa, including Venda, Ndebele, Tsonga, Pedi, Sotho, and Tswana. More rooms were built and the guesthouse now has a total of 18 African-style comfortable double rooms. The next additions were the spa, bar, and conference centre which can accommodate 80. As far as she is able, Salome uses local contractors and suppliers for developments on her property.
Salome arrives at five in the morning to prepare breakfast for the guests and tries to be present when they arrive, knowing that a warm reception will make a difference to how easily guests settle in. On Thursday evenings a braai is held for everyone to encourage guests to relax. Often traditional dancers are brought in to add to the richness of the African experience.
Salome was invited to join Tsogo Sun’s Book-a-Guesthouse programme in 2009, and is enthusiastic about the difference it has made to her business. The Tsogo Sun Book-a-Guesthouse programme is designed to assist the entrepreneurial development of accommodation establishments.
It was through Book-a-Guesthouse that Salome completed her course with UCT – and it is through Book-a-Guesthouse that she continues to have access to advice and support in all aspects of her business, while also being in a position to share her learnings with others. “Book-a-Guesthouse means that I as a small business can belong to something bigger while maintaining independence. It helps to draw guests and exposes me to new ideas and ways to improve my business and make this a more comfortable place for my guests.”
For further information on Tsogo Sun, log on to www.tsogosun.co.za.
About Tsogo Sun
Tsogo Sun is the leading hotels, gaming and entertainment company in South Africa, providing a vast variety of hospitality and exciting entertainment and leisure experiences. Combining an established heritage with a professional and energised approach, the group proudly encompasses 14 casinos and over 90 hotels in South Africa, Africa, and Seychelles.
The company’s hospitality interests offer the widest distribution of hotels in Africa, providing world-class accommodation across all markets, including elegant, individually branded Deluxe Hotels and well known trusted market leaders in the premier through budget segments, including Southern Sun Hotels, Garden Court, SunSquare, StayEasy and Formula 1 hotels.
The exciting urban and resort casino portfolio includes the most popular entertainment destinations, strategically located throughout South Africa. In the Gauteng province, Tsogo Sun owns the group’s flagship property, Montecasino in Fourways, which features, amongst other attractions, the award-winning Teatro; Gold Reef City Casino and Theme Park in Southern Johannesburg; and Silverstar Casino to the West in Krugersdorp. Additional properties are owned and operated in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, including the Jewel on Durban’s Golden Mile, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World.
Tsogo Sun (“TSH”) is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The key shareholders of Tsogo Sun are Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (“HCI”), a JSE listed investment holding company, and SABMiller PLC (“SABM”), the London listed brewing company. The remaining shareholding is held by various financial institutions and the general public.
SunCares is Tsogo Sun’s environment sustainability in tourism programme, which consists of three pillars through which Tsogo Sun aims to be a catalyst for change. These pillars are the company’s CSI programme, encompassing the SunCares Sports Academy and SunCares Performing Arts Academy; Entrepreneurial Development, primarily through the established and impactful Book-a-Guesthouse programme; and Environmental Management. These pillars are creating a solid platform from which Tsogo Sun is able to leverage its considerable resources, experiences, and geographic spread within the hospitality, gaming and entertainment industry to provide the foundation for initiatives that have a lasting impact.