Sol inspires Butch Kerzner bursary fund recipientsApril 29th, 2009 by H&R | Categories: feature, hotels, tourism, training
Sol Kerzner’s impressive career has inspired and now sponsors the next batch of future hoteliers. The Butch Kerzner Memorial Bursary Fund, started after his untimely death in a helicopter crash at age 42 in 2006, helps fund meritorious yet disadvantaged students.
In April, Sol Kerzner, his wife Heather and Butch Kerzner’s widow Vanessa got to meet the 24 recipients of bursaries from this special fund at a lunch at the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) at the University of Johannesburg. Also present was Len Wolman, CEO of the US-based Waterford Group, an alumni (or Golden Circle member) of the school, and also a contributor to the R3-million bursary fund.
The special occasion marked the 40th anniversary of the STH, which has produced some of the industry’s top hoteliers and chefs. The new facilities were launched in 2005.
The 24 bursary recipients are enrolled at the STH in the field of tourism and hospitality management. They spoke of their admiration for Sol Kerzner’s career, which inspired many of them to join the industry, and their gratitude in being given the opportunity to continue their studies.
“Without training and education, producing great general managers and chefs, the industry would fold. We believe in this industry and we have put our money where our mouths are,” Kerzner says.
Also present were various members of the Golden Circle Alumnus, current and past senior lecturers and management, including Dr Reinie Mornet and his wife Petra and Professor Jane Spowart. Other guests included CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA Mmatati Marobe and Matifadza Nyazema, executive director of the Sandton Convention Centre.
Guest speakers included Professor Daneel van Lill, director of the STH; Graham Wood, MD of Southern Sun; Professor Ihron Rensburg, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg; and Dr Bill Gallagher, chairman of the board of STH.
Rensburg said, “In the absence of great entrepreneurship, like Sol Kerzner, this nation, this world would be poorer. They have extended our horizons, set new frontiers for us. This nation is as much thanks to the leadership of Nelson Mandela as the entrepreneurship of Sol Kerzner.”
Garth Shnier, executive chef at Sandton Sun and international competitions director at the South African Chefs Association, introduced the three-course menu and Bennie Howard of Meerendal, introduced the wines served. Members of Team South Africa as well as students helped prepare the meal.
Professor Adam Habib, deputy vice-chancellor of research, innovation and advancement led a question and answer session with Sol Kerzner. Kerzner says, “Having met and spent time speaking to the students, I am so inspired. We can’t build hotels fast enough!”
When asked about retirement plans, Kerzner said, “I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and not thinking about what we’re going to do today. I can’t imagine not being involved in hotels. I love the industry and just want to keep going.”
On the global economic downturn, he says, “No country or industry can escape the difficulties. There is no quick fix, but we hope with a new administration in the US it will turn in the second half of 2009. We are down 10 to 15% on occupancies, but we are ahead of the field and holding our occupancies.”
In addition to the One&Only Cape Town launched in April, the group is also building a resort in Casablanca in Morocco. However, they have put a temporary hold on other developments until the industry picks up.