Tsogo Sun's Book-A-Guesthouse Programme sees strong growth

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 in 2012 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 the Tourism Grading Council of SA, Gauteng Tourism Authority, SA Chefs Association, FEDHASA, City of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg Tourism Company, Limpopo Parks & Tourism, Stone Consulting,, 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.

© Property Wheel

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