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.
We promote our properties as 3-star hotels with 4-star facilities and 5-star service.
While this might sound fallacious, it is actually founded in truth. Travelling abroad will make any South African hotel guest realise that our ‘3-star’ market boxes way above its weight. Most of our BON Hotels are in the 3-star bracket, and in most cases, we can confidently argue that they are more than 3-star quality and would qualify as such with the grading council. For many reasons moving out of the 3-star bracket would be a faux pas, so we are happy to stay right where we are.
My recent blog on the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at got me thinking of the contrary. What is the WORST hotel I have ever stayed at? Travelling and being in the hotel industry conjures up all sorts of both good and bad hotel memories, but I have to say, after careful thought and application of my measuring tool – how did the hotel make me feel? – I must admit to generalisation and claim that my worst hotel in the world is, in fact, a particular hotel category.
At a recent hotel industry function, I was asked which was THE best hotel I have ever stayed at. This has been a common question over the years and one that has an easy answer. It’s also a question to which I enjoy watching the reactions to my reply. I suppose I am expected to mention the likes of ‘The Ritz Carlton in Shanghai’ or ‘The Lanesbourough in London’; however, my decision is not based on six-star facilities or Michelin-rated restaurants, nor is my verdict based on white-gloved waiters or state-of-the-art cocktails. My choice is based on one thing – how the place made me feel.
There’s been something fundamental missing in this last decade of hotel management: the unflashy, workaholic general managers, those who started their careers waiting tables, scrubbing kitchen counters and floors, climbing the ladder, slowly learning ALL of the necessary skills to eventually become THE General Manager.