Nelson Rodrigues appointed GM of Mount Grace Country House & SpaMay 14th, 2012 by Susan Reynard | Categories: hotels, industry, people, tourism
From his first job as a waiter at the Mount Nelson Hotel, fresh out of school, Nelson Rodrigues’s career has come full circle. Two decades later he has just left the Mount Nelson as resident manager to take up the post of GM at Mount Grace Country House and Spa in the Magaliesburg.
During the past 20 years, Rodrigues was part of the opening team at The Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg, worked for the City Lodge and Best Western groups, and was GM at multi award-winning Bushmanskloof in the Cederberg. While he was at the helm, Bushmanskloof garnered 10 international establishment and conservation accolades, including the Travel and Leisure award for Best Hotel in the World and best Lodge in Africa and the Middle East. In between, Rodrigues also packed in two years travelling the world while working aboard the QE II.
Rodrigues had originally planned to study electrical engineering, but a post-Matric holiday job at the Mount Nelson kindled his passion for people and the hospitality industry. As an 18-year-old waiter, he joined the Mount Nelson in-house training programme and was on his way to a solid career in hospitality.
He says: “I just loved the job. Hospitality is definitely in my blood, so a summer job turned into a career.”
His career at top establishments has served him well. He notes: “If I had to pick a career highlight it would certainly be the refinements I was able to implement at Bushmanskloof, and the recognition through awards.”
Rodrigues has a particular passion for staff training: “If you manage staff correctly, give them the respect due to them and instil the desire to grow, it ultimately translates into happy guests. It’s also important to critically question what we do on a daily basis, in order to be sure that we are delivering what guests actually want. Being a good listener is essential, but you also need to be a true leader and be in the trenches with staff, to lead and direct them. You can’t criticise staff if you have never done their job. I started as a waiter and have cleaned toilets too, so I have done it all and so can understand from experience.”
He is proud to be involved in the South African tourism industry “because we are very innovative and don’t just follow what is being done overseas. We adapt what’s happening elsewhere and improve on it for our specific conditions. Our top end markets are definitely right up there with the best around the world.”
He has embraced new trends and innovations in hospitality, such as the use of social media, blogs and websites such as Trip Advisor that allow hoteliers to communicate directly with their customers. He is also a fan of environmental conservation, saying: “It’s essential to incorporate green initiatives and to know what your carbon footprint is. Proudly, Mount Grace has already won awards for doing just this.”