FLASHBACK: September 1992 – Excellent advice from top industry professionals

Back in September 1992, Hotelier & Caterer (as Hotel & Restaurant was called then) editor Andrew Moth said in his hugely popular Viewpoint column: “The South African Tourism Board has responded with commendable speed to expressions of concern from hoteliers over the lack of a level playing field for all suppliers of accommodation. For years hoteliers have had to collect from their guests and pay to Satour [now called South African Tourism] grading levies in return for which they have received advice from inspectors on how to run their establishments and marketing assistance.

“This is not the time or the place to debate the value of this assistance and advice. It is sufficient to say that not everyone in the industry believes they have had value for money. However, they are almost unanimous in believing that Satour should not use this to give free marketing assistance to operators in what has come to be known as the informal sector i.e. bed-and-breakfast establishment and country houses.

“These hoteliers have taken the view that if they are going to have to pay a levy, everyone who sells accommodation and therefore competes with them should also be required to collect the levy and pay. In recent months this has been discussed extensively at Fedhasa meetings. In the June and July issue of Hotelier & Caterer (H&C) the concerns in the industry were highlighted.”

That year it was reported than hundreds of hotels were for sale: “With the hospitality industry in the depths of despair over the recession which is keeping guests and customers out of the hotels, restaurants and liquor stores, it is being estimated that as many as one third of all the hotels in South Africa are for sale.”

So nearly 20 years ago the industry was in a similar situation as today. And yet in the interim, it has managed to grow and boom, report record occupancies, hold a Fifa Soccer World Cup among other sporting events, and undertake the delicate process of transformation before another bout of recession. Given how much has been achieved in the past 19 years, similar recent reports of a “hospitality industry in the depths of despair over the recession” can perhaps be viewed in a more optimistic light.

Back in 1992, one Western Cape operator told Hotelier & Caterer: “Anyone who says he is doing better than 30 per cent is probably not being honest, but it’s no worse than we thought it would be and we budgeted for it.”

Another commentator warned that banks would not fund hotels without the prospect of ROI and that foreign investment was a long shot. “Don’t think we will enjoy favoured-nation status just because we have ended apartheid. We are living in cloud cuckoo land if we think we are going to get special treatment just because we are South Africa. This country is just one of a number of options.”

How many hoteliers can say they honestly heeded his warning? How many decided to overlook this now obvious forecast in the interests of a quick buck in recent years? And what percentage of hotels in South Africa is currently for sale or changing hands? Do drop us a line below if you have any thoughts to share on this.

On a positive note, H&C reported that tour operator Hylton Ross had taken an optimistic view of the changes recently made to South Africa’s air traffic policy at that time, but warned that the country could not expect to receive bumper loads of tourists overnight.

Mount Nelson launched a new low-cholesterol menu and was the first hotel or restaurant in the country to do so at that time. GM Nick Seewer said: “The low-cholesterol menu will not only be welcomed by cholesterol sufferers but will also give all those on a low-fat eating plan the opportunity to enjoy a delectable restaurant meal.”

Holiday Inn was reported as having the largest number of hotel rooms in the world at 327 059.

SAB piloted a new low-alcohol beer called Chandler’s, which was a naturally brewed lager but with only 0.5% alcohol content.

Air Caterers, a JV company of the Fedics Group and Swissair, was building an R18m kitchen at then named Jan Smuts Airport to cater for the increased demand for airline catering. Fedics Group then MD David Wigley, said: “South Africa needs a sound tourism infrastructure to capitalise fully on opportunities. More airlines are flying to our country and we have to prepare for greater tourism activity as those airlines promote South Africa within their own countries.”

Best selling red wine in the high price, or HP, field was announced to be Chateau Libertas, according to and IBIS survey. The wine was celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Nederburg celebrated its 200th anniversary and was named South Africa’s foremost producer of premium wines. The Nederburg Auction has been a major contributor to the successful marketing of the brand and has been held annually since 1975.

H&C looked at the furore about restaurant wine mark-ups and conducted a straightforward price comparison. It was aptly entitled: “One bottle of wine, half a dozen prices.” The debate continues to rage to this day, as diners and restaurateurs hold very different opinions about what the price of on consumption wine should be.

Fedhasa’s 43rd annual congress “offered much which gives reason for hope of better times to hoteliers and restaurateurs but less for liquor retailers,” reported Andrew Moth in his review of proceedings.

Stephen Dagg, then MD of the Boulevard Hotel and Conference Centre in Pretoria, became the driving force behind Friendship Hotels, which was formed to meet the marketing needs of smaller hotels.

Lorena Bortoloso was one of the few female general managers at that time, heading up The Beach House. It was reported: “They face additional challenges because staff and guests are not yet used to seeing a manager in a skirt.”

Jan de Haast, then in his fifth decade in the hospitality business and operations director of Zimbabwe Sun group at that time, said total guest satisfaction is, and must always be, the goal of every individual and every organisation in the hospitality industry.

Dr Reinie Mornet, then director of Hotel School Technikon Witwatersrand, South Africa’s oldest hotel school, listed the following skills as essential to success for those keen on a career in the hospitality industry: commitment, motivation, enthusiasm and preparedness to work hard – very hard.

Ken Rosevear, then MD of Sun International, said: “The Southern African tourist industry is on the brink of a new era of prosperity and growth. It is quite possible that by 1996 the number of international visitors could be increased by at least a million a year creating 150 000 jobs in the hotel industry and generating an additional R6-billion in foreign exchange revenue annually. The bad news is that it won’t happen without political stability, the help of government and an improvement of standards by local operators.”

Top chef Brian McCune proved that it was possible to prepare dinner and breakfast for 500 people from a temporary kitchen, when he headed up the catering team for the Hilton College centenary dinner.

These are just some of the many stories to showcase the best of the hospitality industry in the September 1992 issue. Other stories included personal achievements, professional awards, trends, advice, new products and services, beverage news, people on the move, and all of the latest news and views that have kept Hotel & Restaurant best in class in reporting on the industry it serves.


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