Q&A: TGCSA – Recognising quality

2019 is a big year for the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, with the soon to be implemented revised grading standards for accommodation establishments taking effect on 1 April. It also has a few other things up its sleeve, as explained by Chief Quality Assurance Officer, Darryl Erasmus

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Q: What are you hoping to achieve with the new grading criteria announced in December?

A: TGCSA reviews our grading criteria every three years to ensure that we are still aiding and enabling our global competitiveness as a destination, and also assisting with continued relevance to the local market. The review process includes extensive international benchmarking and widespread consultation with industry. The TGCSA uses these review processes to augment our value proposition and in line with this we will be adding a new concept termed ‘Accolades’ to our grading system come 1 April. Accolades is an opportunity for trade to differentiate their offering further and focus on niche and specialised markets and traveller needs such as Family and Pet- Friendly travel requirements.

Q: How does South Africa’s grading system compare with those in the likes of the United States and Europe?

A: When conducting the review of our grading criteria, an extensive benchmarking exercise was done against global grading bodies and systems. The grading system utilised by the TGCSA was found to be one of the most extensive globally. There are very few similar entities globally that assure quality for the diversity of product that the TGCSA does. Our criteria also emerged as one of the most extensive globally. Evidence that being relevant to the distinctiveness of the South African tourism landscape is paramount. South Africa is most certainly the leader on the African continent with respect to our quality assurance systems and expertise, and in most respects comparable with the best in the world!

Q: What was the thinking behind the recently-announced partnership with WAZE?

A: The TGCSA recognises that the role and impact of technology in the sector will continue to intensify. The partnership with WAZE allows individuals looking for any of our 5,200 graded establishments greater ease of access to location information for our members. The goal is to enhance the use of this platform in 2019 by sharing more of the member content with the platform to ultimately drive traffic to our members.

Q: Are there any other technological advances in the works for the TGCSA?

A: Integration is key to providing value to our members. The TGCSA is working with National Treasury to allow for the integration of our member database into the Central Supplier Database (CSD) of National Treasury. This will assist state officials and their appointed travel management companies with sourcing information on our graded establishments prior to securing accommodation and conference bookings.

Q: What do you think modern day travellers expect from their accommodation provider?

A: Modern day travellers are using technology more and more as part of their daily lives. They are becoming more demanding and often define the way and terms in which they engage with brands and services. From the way they book taxis and review their experiences to the platforms used to consume media, the game has undoubtedly changed. I believe that accommodation providers that strive to exceed a guest’s quality expectations and offer greater personalisation and technology options for ways to engage with their facilities will see greater support as time goes on.

Q: What are your thoughts on the state of the SA hotel industry?

A: One only needs to engage with developers and facilitators of hotel developments to realise that the industry is still buoyant. There are a myriad of new hotel and mixed-use developments either in construction or planned for short-term. That indicates to me that South Africa still offers great returns for investors.

Q: In which star segment are you seeing the most activity and opportunity, with regards SA hotels?

A: South Africa has a large concentration of hospitality product in the mid to luxury market (three to five-star) segments. The TGCSA, as part of the new grading system enhancement, will be introducing a five-star Premium grading level in an attempt to allow for greater differentiation of a very concentrated luxury segment. However, there exists an extraordinary opportunity in the entry level (one and two-star) market accommodation space which will also assist the more budget conscious domestic tourism market.

Q: What does the ‘hotel of tomorrow’ look like to you?

A: In my opinion it is more compact and offers better utilisation of space. Technology will continue to define the overall guest facilities and experience as it will determine the manner in which guests engage with hotel service outlets. The hotel of the future will also act more responsibly with respect to its environmental impact and will recognize guest profile diversity.

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