Authenticity is a buzz word in tourism today. For many travellers and holiday makers, it is about having a once-in-a-lifetime experience or gaining an emotional connection with cultures and nature. Although adventurous travellers might choose to sleep under star-studded Karoo skies rather than in luxury hotel rooms, the hospitality aspect of tourism is about much more than creating a unique experience. It is also about more than the charming touches and polished glasses.
Just recently, Forbes released their 65th annual Star Awards celebrating the world’s most outstanding hotels, restaurants, spas and cruises. (See it here) On this list are also some of South Africa’s most exclusive establishments. It really is a wonderful collection of the best the world has to offer. ” The inspectors test up to 900 rigorous standards, from modern-day luxuries—such as whether a room is set up to enhance sleep quality or whether the food-and-beverage choices support a guest’s well-being—to more traditional elements, such as the décor and the attention the staff pays to a guest. Seventy percent of a property’s rating relies on its service – with a more exacting look at the guest experience as a new service metric for 2023 – while the remaining 30 percent accounts for the quality and condition of its facilities.”
I have been involved in tourism and hospitality for the last 15 years. I serve on the board of Franschhoek Tourism, trying to optimise the offering of one of South Africa’s most popular tourist towns and have been responsible for rolling out our own offering, ranging from fine dining and exclusive wine experiences to delis and family-friendly eateries with pump tracks!
There’s an addictive adrenaline when the photographers move in to capture your finished product and the press releases go out to announce an exciting new offering. Seeing your hard work through the eyes of your PR, is always a charming experience. What I have realised though, as addictive as that charm can be, it takes an enormous amount of courage.
This is why.
No establishment is just front of house, but because hospitality has endearing hosts trying to cater to your every whim, because there are enchanting little trays with perfume in the rest rooms, excessive bouquets in the foyer and a waiter ready to pour another glass of your favourite Champagne, we are often caught up in the charm of running such an establishment. I think tourism and hospitality is just wonderful for several reasons, but if you plan to make this your business, you should be less charmed by it and rather be exceptionally courageous.
To ensure all the enjoyment, you need to have a brilliant back of house system. I can’t stress this enough. A host with the highest EQ, the prettiest décor and flutes overflowing with Champagne can’t make up for it when your plumbing isn’t doing what it should, when unpaid bills result in services being suspended, when hygiene isn’t up to scratch or when your equipment breaks down. Ice machines not working in summer – big issue. Bees in the garden enjoying desserts more than your guests – dangerous problem. Kitchen capacity or delivery delays having guests waiting on their special celebratory lunch – serious unhappiness.
When you start your tourism and hospitality business, remember that even the best architects and engineers disagree from time to time. Interior designers and logistics might not see eye to eye. Marketing and finance might have serious disagreements. This is all part of the process, but in the end all of these different areas have to be operational. Pretty couches are important. So is a roof that doesn’t leak.
Whether you are dreaming of opening a cosy B&B, a lunch time spot with a plat du jour or invest in a luxury cruise liner, I will encourage an interest in tourism and hospitality, especially for the way it creates jobs and brings economic opportunity. But, as much as I understand the charm, I will urge you to be cautious and only it take it on if you have courage!