Networking has not been one of my priorities. I confess it is something I shy away from - I prefer to connect with people one-on-one. While this is perhaps not the right attitude to have being in the hospitality industry, for what it’s worth, I have acknowledged this as a weakness that requires work. To that end, I have made an intentional effort to attend industry events, and once I am in the swing of things, it’s not really that bad and I actually find myself relaxing and connecting – networking!
Our company has evolved and our industry now realises that BON Hotels is here to stay: in fact, we have an important role to play in the new age of South African hospitality. We have remained true to our core values and have been successful in developing an honest, forward-thinking company. The industry is responding and more and more people want to engage with us. This is flattering but also daunting as I find myself invited to take part in panel discussions or share my entrepreneurial journey with others. These events are replete with guest speakers and industry experts, ripe with opportunities for me to mix and learn from influential thought-leaders and international CEOs - opportunities I am grabbing with both hands to feed off and learn from others’ expertise.
Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion alongside some top players in the hospitality industry at the HICA Conference in Johannesburg. I have always admired these industry icons and thus this was a very special moment for me. What stood out was that the very same things keep us awake at night and we share common concern - that is, our relationship with hotel owners and / or the financial institutions that fund our hotel ventures.
Many of the larger hotel groups followed the same pattern, that of starting out asset- heavy and owning many of their properties, to a more favourable situation of being asset-light and managing hotels (rather than owning) by developing good relationships with hotel owners. Most interesting to discover is that the Marriott group only owns 15 of their 3000 plus hotels – good thinking!
Extracting pearls of wisdom from these events is invaluable, and the HICA conference reminded me that BON Hotels needs to maintain our focus on building good relationships with hotel owners, restoring faith in the hotel management industry.
South Africa, and in fact all of Africa, is entering an exciting phase in the hospitality field. International companies have entered the arena, bedding down African deals, with consolidation amongst some of the bigger players through recent mergers and acquisitions. Being a small player amongst the big boys is sometimes intimidating, but hell, we are up for the challenge - excited, more than able, and very very willing!