Southern Sun holds mini-Indaba in JohannesburgApril 8th, 2011 by Susan Reynard | Categories: feature, government, hotels, industry, people, tourism, training
Southern Sun has placed building relationships with industry and its key clients as a priority. The group held a two-day mini-Indaba expo at Southern Sun Grayston in Johannesburg earlier this week (5 and 6 April) to create a platform for senior management from head office and hotels across the country to interact with clients from corporations, government and travel trade.
Director of sales and marketing Neil Fraser says, “Indaba is a truly African word that refers to a gathering of leaders to discuss important matters, share resources, and collaborate ideas. This word is at the heart of our mission: to unite people to grow the hospitality industry and to stimulate fresh business ideas in the current economic climate.”
During the event, hoteliers from across the country reported anticipating a challenging April, but also renewed innovation and delivery of value added service to guests. Competition has grown in key areas with the increase in inventory, making it tougher on the hospitality industry in general. Competition can come from anywhere, however, including the increase in small lodges, guesthouses and B&Bs.
Loyalty from both guests and staff is encouraged, valued and rewarded. An emphasis on staff training has resulted in focused teams that deliver on each brand’s specific points of difference. In addition, staff with long-service are encouraged to identify exceptional youngsters within their teams to personally mentor, as they look to “pass the baton”.
MD Graham Wood says that these are no doubt difficult trading times but there is a glimmer of hope in 2012.
He reports that in the formal hotel sector, occupancies for the period April 2010 to February 2011 were 56%, compared to 57% for the same period the previous year. Rates have gone up 11% and revpar is up by 8%. What this means, he notes, is that industry has gone backwards in relative terms.
Wood reports that during the past 18 months Southern Sun has worked hard at connecting with its markets and this is yielding results. Positive feedback and a higher guest satisfaction rating are proof that the group is meeting needs and staying flexible.
“It is about building a sustainable business for the future, not just today,” he maintains.
Risks taken in Garden Court and StayEasy have paid off, with improved occupancies reported as the brands re-priced to remain relevant to the budget market.
Neil Bald, operations director for the Garden Court and StayEasy brands, says the team is focused on its core business and functions. From beds and breakfast, to quality check-in and -out services, the brand delivers the best experience. Consistency of offering is critical to satisfied customers and this requires discipline, he notes.
“The market tries to ‘commoditise’ you, with some people buying on price and not brand delivery. We are focused on ensuring our market understands what is on offer, as we don’t want to confuse customers. What we’ve done is to focus on each business in its own space, so that it meets the needs of its market in that region.”
Bald says “a little bit of Garden Court in everybody won’t do them any harm”, as these hotels provide an excellent all-round working experience for staff and management.
Wood says the group remains focussed on sales, partners, hotels, guests and staff, and to creating great memories. The group worked hard during the 2010 Fifa World Cup and beyond, and this has been rewarded by increased market share.
Its long-term deal with South African Rugby has been renewed, as has its accommodation contracts with cricket, football and secondary sporting codes.
A new brand campaign for Southern Sun Hotels is due to be launched later this year, led by director of operations John van Rooyen. Wood says that while they are already doing a good job, through a new brand story they will take the four-star guests experience from good to exceptional.
Norman Wallace, who is part of the offshore division, reports steady business across the continent with the current nine hotels. New business opportunities have been identified in the Middle East and West Africa.
Other big news includes the merger with Gold Reef Resorts, which after the AGM will change name to Tsogo Sun. This will take the group back to being listed and make it the world’s sixth largest gaming company.
“Southern Sun strives to be Africa’s leading hotel group and we continuously aim to revolutionise the local hospitality industry with our innovative spirit, dynamic management and unparalleled levels of service. Our strength lies in our brands, each able to precisely offer a tailor-made experience to our guests, from deluxe accommodation for the five-star traveller to budget options,” adds Fraser
Southern Sun Hotels looks forward to boosting business and strengthening relationships further on its stand at the major Tourism Indaba from 7 to 10 May at the Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban.