Innovation at the heart of recovery for Africa’s hospitality sector

The 2022 Hotel & Hospitality Show, organised by dmg events, kicked off on 19 May at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg – the first in-person event of its kind since the pandemic struck the tourism and leisure industry in South Africa. Attended by thousands of leading stakeholders from within the private and public sectors, event speakers hailed innovation as the key to survival within the sector, after an immensely challenging period.

City Lodge Hotel Group COO, Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, explained the Group’s need to sell off hotels outside of South Africa in order to survive the pandemic. However, she added that they had ultimately come out stronger, with food and beverage sales an increasingly important consideration within the sector.

Executive Director of Newmark Hotels, Mike Vroom, agreed that food and beverage sales had become a lifeline for their business. He explained their strategy of partnering with restaurants within their space to bring more people through the doors and generate an income.

“Such partnerships have proven beneficial for all parties,” he said, with restaurateurs typically viewing the industry differently and therefore being able to bring a new dynamic to the relationship.

“As a result of our different approach to the industry, we have had our strongest 18 months on the food and beverage side,” said Vroom.

Managing Director of the Capital Hotel Group, Marc Wachsberger, added that while collaboration and co-working had become the new operative way for hotels post-Covid, the Capital Hotel Group had chosen to steer away from collaborating with student housing so as not to dilute their core hotel offering. However, he welcomed the boost from local tourism, which he said had gone a long way to resurrect the industry.

Operations Director of Legacy Hotels and Resorts, Glenn Stutchbury, encouraged the sector not to overlook country-centric partnerships with a reward system, pointing out that it would be easier than partnering with international rewards systems post-Covid.

Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) – in collaboration with the Hotel and Hospitality Show – held its annual Rosetta Awards during the three-day event, to recognise eateries, suppliers and personalities committed to service excellence in the sector.

The Rosetta Award is recognition of the highest honours for service excellence and overall contribution to the upliftment of the restaurant industry,” said Wendy Alberts, Chief Executive Officer of RASA.

Keynote speaker MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Mpho Parks Tau, highlighted the tenacity of the hospitality industry. He added that one positive outcome of the pandemic was the strong relationship that his department had built with key members in the sector, including RASA, as a result.

“We are trying our level best to ensure that the economy, not just in Gauteng, but in South Africa as a whole, remains open, in order to mitigate the impact that the hospitality industry has experienced and may continue to experience in the short- to medium term” he explained.

He also reiterated the importance of the industry within the local economy due to the substantial number of jobs it supported.

Managing Director and Owner of Waterfall Markets, Greg Straw, said that while the pandemic had forced all markets in South Africa to close, he was inspired by how many stall holders had persevered to open their own restaurants.

All speakers agreed that while the pandemic had severely impacted the hotel and hospitality industry, a strong recovery for the sector was imminent, with global economies opening and tourism on the rise.

“There is no ceiling for what this industry can achieve,” said Shaw.

Evan Schiff, Portfolio Director of Food, Hospitality and Trade at dmg events concluded: “Overall, we are delighted with the response to the 2022 Hotel & Hospitality Show. Considering the severe impacts of lockdown on the sector, to see so many thousands of people attend, and to experience the support of so many restaurants and hotel GMs, really amplifies the importance of providing a platform for the industry to come together and discuss the best route to recovery. We will be focusing our efforts on expanding the sectors represented at the show to better provide resources to the sector in 2023 and beyond.”