Emmah Makatu, entrepreneur and owner of Zwinoni Lodge in Milnerton Ridge in Cape Town, was named the winner of the Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse – Guesthouse of the Year 2013 at a five-star banquet at the Sandton Convention Centre on 13 April 2013.

Makatu pipped four other finalists to the post in a closely run competition where “the level of professionalism among the finalists was exceptionally high and all were representative of superior entrepreneurship in this country,” said Candy Tothill, Tsogo Sun’s Group Internal Communications & Special Projects Manager, who manages the entrepreneurial development programme. She said the finalists were “intelligent, industrious, and elegant entrepreneurs”. The finalists included Florence Mondi of Flossie’s B&B in Pimville, Soweto; Pam Maistry of Taunton House in Wembley, Pietermaritzburg; Siphiwe Nhlapo of Temaswati Guesthouse in Meredale, south of Johannesburg; and Lizzy Mphahlele of LizVilla B&B in Clarina, north of Pretoria.

Makatu wins a prize of an experiential business trip to Tsogo Sun’s property in Maputo, Mozambique, to the value of R30 000, as well as the privilege of being the face of Book-a-Guesthouse for a year, giving her and her guesthouses extensive additional publicity. “I’m proud to be part of Book a Guesthouse and my thanks goes to Tsogo Sun and my fellow guesthouse owners for the support and inspiration I have received from them. This has been a tremendous experience – I’ve earned my stars!” said an excited Makatu at the ceremony.

The five finalists spent two days with Tsogo Sun at a coaching workshop in March, being trained and prepared to appear in the public domain in their role as winner of the Guesthouse of the Year Award. This included specialised training sessions, media interviews, being filmed on camera, coaching activities, and events with other local leading businesswomen.

Tsogo Sun’s Book a Guesthouse programme for entrepreneurial development of accommodation establishments has a total of 60 independently-owned and operated bed & breakfasts and guesthouses, located in four provinces – Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape. The programme supports 258 jobs in the member establishments and has seen more than 2 000 indirect jobs created.

Book a Guesthouse is positioned within Tsogo Sun’s SunCares programme, which represents 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.

Book a Guesthouse was started by Tsogo Sun eight years ago in Soweto, developing, mentoring and coaching accommodation establishments that displayed the potential to become sustainable enterprises. The programme concentrates 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.

Candy Tothill 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”. Graduates remain in the programme as alumni. They give back through the new entrepreneur mentorship programme and continue to receive access to sales and marketing and further development and support opportunities within the programme. Thirty-two Book a Guesthouse entrepreneurs have graduated from the UCT Guesthouse Management Course in the past 18 months and a further 20 have qualified for enrolment this year.

Tothill says it has been extremely gratifying to see remarkable sustained growth in 92 percent of the member properties. “This is a positive reflection on the major investment made by the Tsogo Sun group into the programme, which includes more than 80 formal training interventions and over 2 500 instances of business support and coaching to members.

At the ceremony, Tothill gave credit to programme partners who assist Tsogo Sun to deliver meaningful support to members and who have been instrumental in assisting with the expansion by providing specific skills, training, marketing and operational support. The partners include Tourism Grading Council of SA, Gauteng Tourism Authority, SA Chefs Association,, FEDHASA, City of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg Tourism Company, Limpopo Parks & Tourism, Stone Consulting, Tourism KZN and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Giving the keynote address, Tsogo Sun’s Chief Marketing Officer, Rob Collins, said Tsogo Sun’s aim with its SunCares programme is to create shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Book a Guesthouse is a flourishing example of this approach. He addressed the full spectrum of Book a Guesthouse members: “You as entrepreneurs are becoming an integral part of the tourism sector in this country; you are in a position to wow our tourists and you are making sure that tourists are exposed to the rich cultural diversity that this country has to offer.”

Collins, who described Tsogo Sun as a “catalyst of hope”, expressed his personal ‘hopes’ for each of the entrepreneurs – that they get used to change, and embrace it; that they recognise that making mistakes is part of life; that they hold onto their entrepreneurial spirit and all that it represents; and that at the end of the day they have fun, taking their work seriously, but not themselves.

Tothill believes that the future of Book a Guesthouse is bright. “The success of our member entrepreneurs shows us that the programme is an excellent way for Tsogo Sun to add value through skills enhancement within the broader hospitality industry, while also investing in the growth of the South African economy.”

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