On November 2, South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, gazetted amendments to the National Grading System for tourism, which had last been amended in 2012.

The document sets out regulations for accommodation facilities across the country, according to which they are graded – a system that is driven and monitored by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA).

The TGCSA is committed to amending these regulations every three years, in order to ensure SA remains aligned with global benchmarks, and remains relevant to changes within the sector – changes such as advances in technology, for example.

“The aim of the TGCSA is to establish and maintain a recognisable and credible globally benchmarked system of quality assurance for accommodation and MESE (Meetings, Exhibitions and Special Events) experiences in South Africa.”

There have been a number of pivotal changes to these amendments, which have taken time to process and bring into law. Darryl Erasmus, Chief Quality Assurance Officer of the TGSCA – a subsidiary of SA Tourism – told Tourism Update that some of the major changes include the following:

  • Two new categories have been introduced within the grading system: Apartment Hotels, and the Small Hotel category. This brings the total number of categories up to 13, where there were previously 11.
  • A Five-Star Premium category has also been introduced. “This category will be a game-changer,” says Erasmus, “and allow properties a new level of factors with which to differentiate themselves. These will range from quality of the product, to furniture and fittings, and level of service”.
  • Accolades will now give facilities an opportunity to receive an accolade within their niche market – be it family accommodation (where elements like having a nanny service, play area, children’s menu, etc would come into play), or other niche markets including covering pet-friendly venues, wine tourism, birding, golfing, 4x4, wellness, or a wedding venue. “Venues will be able to achieve multiple accolades,” adds Erasmus, should they meet the respective criteria.
  • The Responsible Tourism accolade is an important amendment to the 2018 Grading System, which takes into account the South African National Standards (SANS) 1162 criteria for responsible tourism.
  • There will further be a move away from the term “MICE” (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), towards the term “Venues”, within the amendments.

The above points highlight the major changes to the amendments, with the full list of amendments available here.

“The TGCSA will only be implementing the amendments in April 2019, to give the industry time to understand and adjust to the requirements,” says Erasmus. “We will be embarking on a nationwide roadshow over February and March 2019 to explain the changes, so that the industry understands exactly what they are, and has sufficient time to make the necessary adjustments in order to comply.”

“The amendments have been made with the aim of streamlining the grading criteria and process, and move away from a system that was previously somewhat tedious, with much duplication,” says Erasmus, adding: “We would like to thank the industry for its input and support throughout this process. “The amended criteria are globally compliant, and relative to our country and its quality standards. This grading system was developed with input from our industry, and belongs to the industry.”