The Tsogo Sun Book-a-Guesthouse programme for entrepreneurial development of accommodation establishments is growing strongly. In the last year it has seen an increase of 17 guesthouses, bringing the total number of independently-owned and operated bed & breakfasts and guesthouses in the programme to 60, located in four provinces – Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape.
Book-a-Guesthouse is positioned within Tsogo Sun’s SunCares programme, which was launched earlier this year as the group’s commitment to sustainability in tourism plan, incorporating entrepreneurial development, corporate social investment, and environmental management. All initiatives within SunCares are united under the umbrella brand, positioning the group as a catalyst for change within every aspect of its upliftment and environmental programmes.
A striking new corporate identity and logo for Book-a-Guesthouse has also been developed by Tsogo Sun’s brand agency, Pretoria-based Dieselbrook, which enables each member establishment to identify itself with the strong Tsogo Sun SunCares brand while also retaining their own individual identities.
Book-a-Guesthouse was started by Tsogo Sun’s Southern Sun hotels division in 2005 as a pilot project in Soweto, developing, mentoring and coaching accommodation establishments that displayed the potential to become sustainable enterprises. The programme has enjoyed government endorsement since it was officially launched by the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, in 2005. Today the programme concentrates mainly on the empowerment of black women who represent 92 percent of the membership, as well as the development of their businesses within the local tourism industry, with continued endorsement by government and regional tourism agencies.
Candy Tothill, Tsogo Sun’s Group Empowerment Manager explains the programme. “Book-a-Guesthouse operates on a three-year model, during which time intensive support is provided in the first year, general support in the second year, and monitored support in the third. In this way, by the end of the third year, the guesthouses are independent, well-run and well-managed sustainable businesses,” she says. Graduates remain in the programme as alumni. They give back through the new entrepreneur mentorship programme and they continue to receive access to sales and marketing and further development and support opportunities within the programme. Twenty-two Book-a-Guesthouse entrepreneurs have graduated from the UCT Guesthouse Management Course to date.
Tothill says it has been extremely gratifying to see the remarkable sustained growth in 92 percent of the member properties, which is a positive reflection on the R12 million combined financial and in-kind investment made by the Tsogo Sun group into the programme in the past five years. The investment includes 84 formal training interventions and close on 3 000 instances of business support and coaching that have been provided to members.
Other programme partners, who were invited to assist Tsogo Sun to deliver meaningful support to members, have together established a community of practice to ensure that all requirements would be met by the members. The programme’s partners have been instrumental in assisting with the expansion by providing specific skills, training, marketing and operational support. The programme partners include Tourism Grading Council of SA, Gauteng Tourism Authority, SA Chefs Association, Tourism Enterprise Partnership, FEDHASA, City of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg Tourism Company, Limpopo Parks & Tourism, Stone Consulting, Baird’s, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, who together contribute a further R500 000 to the programme annually. The programme supports 258 jobs in the member establishments.
“Our year-on-year results within the member establishments are steadily improving and over the seven-year period that we have been operating, we have seen them achieve a combined estimated average of R15.5 million in turnover and more than 2 000 indirect jobs created,” adds Tothill.
Another recent development for Book-a-Guesthouse was the launch of the programme’s interactive website, which provides for online bookings requests at all the 60 registered properties around the country. The website enables travel agents, tour operators, and the public to view the member guesthouses, source information about services and facilities offered by each establishment, find out more about the individual owners, and interact directly with them to make bookings and submit enquiries.
Book-a-Guesthouse is proving to be an excellent way for the Tsogo Sun group to add value through skills enhancement within the broader hospitality industry, while also investing in the growth of the South African economy.
Tsogo Sun was itself a start-up entrepreneurial company in the mid 90’s. In its meteoric growth to become South Africa’s largest Gaming, Hotel and Entertainment Company it certainly has not forgotten what entrepreneurs need to succeed and the on-going challenges that they face. The Tsogo Sun Book-a-guesthouse program was thus designed to impart knowledge and skills accumulated in the broader tourism industry to benefit black entrepreneurs and create shared value. “Creating shared value is the only way Tsogo Sun engages on social and entrepreneurial initiatives,” says Dhrupal Amin, the Group’s commercial manager. “Philanthropy became common place amongst companies in the mid 19th century, after which the focus on social returns and triple bottom line approach lead to the formation of Corporate Social Investment (CSI) methodologies. CSI still remains common place the globe over, however the concept of Common Shared Value (CSV) is certainly the approach of the future,” says Amin. Unsurprisingly to Tsogo Sun, this concept was advocated by Michael Porter, Professor at Harvard Business School and leading authority on company strategy and competitiveness of Countries and Regions, at the recent Discovery Leadership Summit.
Tsogo Sun has in this regard been a pioneer by ensuring that shared value is created not only through its social programmes but also through its Book-A-Guesthouse programme. “This is quite simply achieved by ensuring that programmes bring benefit to entrepreneurs, the community and Tsogo Sun. Our involvement not only focuses on the upskilling of entrepreneurs, but also on the ability of businesses to hire labour from the community and procure goods and other services from their local environments,” says Amin. In reviewing the impact that a shared value approach has, there is no doubt that Professor Michael Porter and Tsogo Sun are in fact correct. “The creation of shared value has resulted in over 2 000 indirect jobs being created by the programme, local suppliers in nodes such as Limpopo and Soweto are well supported by Guesthouses and have as a result allowed them to grow their own businesses and foreign travellers looking for a Soweto experience or unique guesthouse experience are assured of great standards of service and product and become the ambassadors for brand South Africa,” says Amin. For Tsogo Sun, the returns are simple and clear: job creation, great tourist experiences and sustainable black businesses.
Tsogo Sun has been pivotal to creating shared value since its inception and even more so since the launch of its SunCares initiative. One of the most prominent shared value projects that Tsogo Sun has engaged in was the building and operating of the Sandton Convention Centre. Like most centres of its kind across the globe, Sandton Convention Centre is not profit making in its nature and hence all but a few are owned by government and not private enterprise. However, convention centres are a strategic asset which, when used appropriately, becomes the catalyst for driving business and tourism. The SCC has for years been the hub of global events and has undoubtedly been a catalyst for broader economic activity and opportunity. The SCC thus epitomises the concept of shared value and the benefits this approach has in relation to philanthropy.