Do hospitality awards make a difference?

Hotel & Restaurant ran a poll last week asking our readers what they thought about awards in the hospitality industry.  Most respondents (49%) in our poll believe that the extra publicity brought in by awards is beneficial, while 30% say that specific awards help certain establishments. The remaining 21% believe that there are too many awards in the industry for people to recognise them all.

The following is a letter submitted by Vanessa Sand, the convenor of the AA Awards in response to our poll results:

It is interesting to see the current poll being conducted by Hotel and Restaurant on their online site asking people to indicate if they feel awards benefit the industry, or whether there are too many awards or whether awards only benefit a few selected establishments.

I put in my vote and was pleased to see it was in tune with the majority who the poll indicates feel that the whole industry benefits and it brings more publicity.

At the time that we began the AA Awards 19 years ago there were no other awards in the hospitality industry.

The excitement of finalists and winners was so motivating. Running an awards programme properly is a huge amount of work and even with a large amount of sponsorship it often only breaks even as an activity.

In early years I remember speaking to colleagues who were doing the inspections to ensure that we made good decisions and they would go and see 10 properties a day. Often they would arrive at their destination at 11h00 at night and have to be up with the sparrows the next day.

One very stressful night I knew one of my colleagues was alone driving up steep mountain passes in the dark on roads she had never travelled before. I really worried until she arrived safely and called me.

Awards are good for business. They differentiate the achievers. It’s important that establishments make participation a motivating factor for staff with the view that to be an achiever of some sort even if not a winner is wonderful in itself – which it really is.

If winning is the only goal - and there can only be one winner out of a huge range of amazing properties in South Africa - then to only be an achiever and not win is very demoralising and demotivating for both management and staff. The real reward of treating your guests well enough to be an awards achiever is happy guests who will come back and tell their friends and colleagues that they must come too.

People trust awards if they have an understanding of the process. The AA Awards relies on consumer feedback as well as a visit from one of our trained assessors to check that what is seen on arrival matches what is on the guest reviews.

This has been our methodology year after year. It’s a formula that works.

This year we have restructured the AA awards programme so as to have regional winners and the regional winners become national finalists. This accommodates the large number of amazing properties that there are in South Africa which truly deserve recognition as well as producing a leaner set of national results.

More information about the AA Awards is available on

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