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.
Naturally, this time of the year forces one to reflect on the past twelve months. In doing so, I cannot remember ever having a tougher year than this one. We have had a tumultuous year at BON Hotels, a year of growth, celebrations, discovery and of course, lessons.
International hotel management companies have had their fair share of the South African hotel management contract pie for more than a decade. The major players stepped in to our arena more than a decade ago as many operators were keen on the South African market. Asian, European and American hotel management companies have joined the ‘Scramble for Africa’, resulting in an urgency to get deals signed and share of the market secured. Major hotel groups jumped on the bandwagon, culminating in the Marriott purchase of the Protea Group last year.
My recent travels to Zambia and Namibia have confirmed; our long-term strategic plan of focusing on the larger Africa is a good one. While we are not taking our eye off opportunities within South Africa, the sheer number of opportunities north of our borders cannot be ignored!
We are all well aware of the adverse effect on the inbound tourism industry due to new Home Affairs legislation. Fortunately (in a twisted way) the rand is coming to our rescue, its poor performance making South Africa an enticing destination of choice for international holiday-makers seeking inexpensive holidays, despite the onerous new requirements. However, putting faith on an underperforming currency to save the day is not the ideal situation.
We’ve put a bell in our office. Slap bang in the middle of everything and everyone. For the sole purpose of celebrating achievements. The ‘rule’ is, no matter how big or small an achievement or success is, the person responsible for a smile, a deal, a happy guest or the ticking off of a task has to ring the bell, sharing the success with all of us in the office.