Within the next six weeks, the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa hopes to release its new grading criteria. This follows an intensive consultative process with industry, while the new criteria are also informed by global best practice and new travel trends.

Darryl Erasmus, Chief Quality Assurance Officer at TGCSA, revealed as much during a webinar on Friday, hosted by Tourism Update in collaboration with SA Tourism.

Erasmus explained that the council looked to upgrade its criteria every three years. “When I travel around the country, I tell – especially the smaller product owners – that we don’t review the criteria to make it more difficult. We review the criteria because the world is changing.” Erasmus illustrated the point using the example of WiFi, which only recently became something hotels offered and today has become something many guests expect as a given.

The new criteria are informed by engagements with industry and a partnership with Grant Thornton, who consulted on the original criteria. “Together with Grant Thornton, we spent an enormous amount of time benchmarking what we have against international players,” said Erasmus. He said a considerable amount of time had also been spent engaging with the assessors.

The engagements with trade were a focus of the review, said Erasmus. “While we are the mandated authority on quality assurance and are the custodian of the criteria, these criteria belong to industry.” Erasmus highlighted the importance of industry being given as much input into the criteria as possible.

He hinted at what the trade could expect from the new criteria, sharing that there would be some new categories. Accolades, such as implementing responsible and sustainable tourism practices will also be recognised, while products will be able to differentiate themselves according to niches such as golf tourism or food and wine tourism.

Erasmus added that the criteria would be gazetted for comment before they were adopted.

SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, emphasised that grading was a key mechanism to ensure that South Africa’s tourism product delivered on its brand promise. He emphasised the need for the experience to deliver on this brand promise and their expectations.

The grading council exists as part of the Tourism Act and grading in South Africa is on a voluntary basis. Erasmus said that with roughly 5 400 establishments opting to be graded, the voluntary system is working. He highlighted some of the benefits that are given to graded products, including negotiated discounts on products for the accommodation sector such as legal and tax advice, linen and furniture as well as amenities. Erasmus added that, if maximised, the savings from these benefits exceeded the cost of grading.

Ntshona said the monthly webinars were used to drive engagement with the industry and that he would like to include SA Tourism’s exco in the webinars. He also invited members of the trade to suggest topics they would like covered during this session. Send your suggestions to editor@tourismupdate.co.za.

To hear the full webinar, click here.