In recent years, the hospitality industry has been affected by factors out of its control. Technological advances, environmental issues and changing tourist tastes have forced the industry to continually adapt.
It is for these reasons that the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) has recently augmented its grading criteria. Three new categories have been added: apartment hotels, small hotels and boutique hotels.
As part of our undertaking to industry, the review of our grading system and criteria need to ensure we are both internationally benchmarked and thus competitive as a destination. Another key consideration is that any enhancement needs to be relevant to the South African context and market. In South Africa in recent years, we have seen an upsurge in both new-build apartment hotels as well as more intimate and unique boutique hotels. We need to ensure we have the categorisation to respond to these new developments.
One of the key reasons behind the triennial review of our criteria, is the impact that technological enhancements are having on the hospitality sector and the overall guest experience. For instance, the provision of and access to WiFi is fast becoming a very basic need and guest prerequisite at any category of accommodation. As this has happened, the TGCSA requirements for these categories has had to remain current and relevant.
Technology is impacting various guest services and guest interactions, both before arrival and whilst in-house. One of the biggest developments in the newly released grading criteria amendments in the formal hotel categories, is the amendment to the requirement for the provision of landline telephones in hotel bedrooms.
It is no longer a requirement to have a fixed line telephone in a hotel, according to our new 2019 grading standards. This is because of the amazing tech developments which allow guests to connect with the hotel service outlets using new platforms and applications as well as the ability to make outgoing calls using applications linked to the provision of WiFi.
Responsible tourism accolade
South Africa has in recent months had to deal with a number of environmental issues that have directly affected our tourism fraternity.
We are of the opinion that limiting the impact of tourism on the environment is in the interest of all concerned and it was on this premise that the TCGSA undertook to include an accolade to recognise properties that have adopted and are practising Responsible Tourism practices.
The TGCSA criteria for the Accolade for Responsible Tourism were sourced from the existing South African National Standard SANS 1162 for Responsible Tourism Standards.
What travel agents should consider
The category and the star-grading level awarded to properties annually are by far the most important points for travel agents when recommending an establishment to a customer. This indicates the type of product that will be encountered as well as the levels of product quality, variety of facilities and service standards to be expected by your guests.
The TGCSA is fortunate to have over 5 200 properties graded across the country so variety and availability should seldom be an issue. The TGCSA reviews the grading status of our members annually and it is thus also important to ensure that the property you are booking has a valid TGCSA grading certificate with an expiration date in the future.
The TGCSA hosted a Roadshow across all nine provinces in South Africa to showcase our enhancements to the grading system and accolades. We were overwhelmed with the positive sentiment and support from both our graded establishment members and the tourism stakeholder community at our Roadshow sessions.
There is much excitement regarding the new categories, the new star-grading level – 5 Star PREMIUM and the new accolade recognition mechanism, which are by far the most talked about developments. The TGCSA is excited to implement these enhancements and allow our members to benefit from the new standards and differentiation value proposition.
Following a rigorous grading system review process and the well supported Roadshow events in all nine provinces, it has become very evident that the TGCSA is on the right track! We are invigorated to see that our contribution, through the provision of our world-class grading system, continues to assist trade in improving the collective positioning of South Africa as a quality destination and a leading player on the global stage.