As the CEO of an African hospitality group, I spend a fairly big chunk of my time travelling across the continent. And I spend a fair amount of time signing off on the visa expenses of my team members who travel within Africa. And sometimes, I throw my hands up in frustration when a team member’s visa is denied for no apparent reason, even though they are travelling for business.
Now imagine this frustration as a potential tourist or visitor. There are myriad campaigns encouraging us to explore our own doorstep first before going overseas. So you want to let your wanderlust take you from South to North Africa or East to West Africa but you’re stopped in your tracks by the red tape and cost implications of pricey visas.
Maturity brings acceptance of one’s flaws. Although this flaw is something I am not proud of, it is something I must constantly work on: my (sometimes) arrogant approach to authority. Seems to be something engrained in my make-up, or perhaps inherited in my DNA. I am (too often) guilty of only seeking my own advice and believing my own propaganda. The result is occasionally a little macabre, so I must honestly admit that I don’t have a ‘mentor’ as so many others do, as there are few people whom I look up to.
Some time ago, I was directed by a business coach to the collection of Sun Tzu’s strategic advice - The Art of War. I remember taking cognisance of the lessons outlined by the great Chinese military general and as often as I could, I drew on the 33 nuggets. Looking back, the advice is sound. In fact, a refresher stroll through my copy of this classic has affirmed a few very important strategies for me:
It’s a fact that we are living in what I call the ‘Age of Consolidation’, the ‘sharing economy’ as it’s coined by others. And the tourism industry is not immune. The airline, car rental, travel services and hospitality industries have undergone massive consolidation over the last few years. The Marriott acquisition of Starwood (at a fine $12 billion), car rental companies being swallowed up, airlines being bought up one after another and online travel portals joining forces. Mergers and acquisitions aplenty. The obvious reasoning: companies must show growth.
I remember the days when we hoteliers had the luxury of daydreaming of ways to delight our guests, conjuring up new ideas, even improving things that seemed to be working. Worrying about spoiling, delighting and pampering our guests was the central concern of every decision we made. Ahhh, the luxury....
Nowadays it seems that our general managers and management teams are spending their hotel management moments worrying about cash flow, stressing over budgets, agonizing over revenue: in short, money.