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The value of grading tourism establishments

Apr 25 2017 14:20
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The value of grading tourism establishments lies in the quality assurance that then would underpin visitors' experience, according to Darryl Erasmus, chief quality assurance officer of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA).

The TGCSA was established in the early 2000s with a mandate to ensure there are quality tourism products in SA. It is responsible to ensure that the quality of products and the experience from a lodging perspective when sold internationally live up to expectations.

Currently grading is on a voluntary basis.

Erasmus told Fin24 on Tuesday that the TGCSA has just been through a process where its grading criteria were revised.

"We worked through each category and did international benchmarking to see what other markets do. We want to keep abreast of new trends and to remain relevant," said Erasmus.

"The largest portion of our review process was consultation with industry as they need to understand the criteria. The review process has now been completed and we just need approval from the new minister of tourism. We hope to get approval from her in the near future."

Business travel

Erasmus pointed out that business travel and the use of technology go hand in hand.

"We, therefore, made sure to revisit and look at the way properties use technology and to escalate the importance thereof. About 8 to 10 years ago WiFi was probably not even a requirement of a hotel, whereas now the expectation is to have it even at guest houses," explained Erasmus.

"Consumers are consuming media differently these days. When they travel they want the television in the room to be connected to an internet service so they can choose what they want to watch."

READ: Travellers must beware of false grading claims

Star grading

In SA the star grading system - from 1 to 5 stars - is used as an indicator of quality. According to Erasmus, this works well as properties can position themselves, including from a commercial perspective.

"We also found that in SA we have a very high concentration of product in the 4 and 5 star bracket. Some of these properties are even going the extra mile when investing in the experience of their guests. So, we are looking into creating a 5 Star Premium brand maybe. This will be in line with international best practice," explained Erasmus.

"The other big thing for us is that, as a sector, we want to grow the tourism industry's contribution to GDP, while at same time minimising the impact on the environment. So, going forward, if, for instance properties have waste and water management and procure from locals - basic requirements - we could give them some sort of recognition like an accolade. We think this will be well received."

He said travellers are becoming a lot more savvy and want to know what their carbon footprint is. He uses Hotel Verde in Cape Town as a great example.

"We would more and more like to see that even B&Bs become more responsible and minimise their impact on the environment," said Erasmus.

The TGCSA has also created the Tourism Analytics Programme (TAP), which aggregates online reviews and allows it to ensure a graded property is consistently getting suitable feedback for its service. It enables very holistic service in the hospitality space, in his view. The aim of the TGCSA is to help with the value add for smaller businesses wanting to provide better service.

READ: Take note of new grading plaques in SA

Indaba 2017

At the upcoming Indaba 2017 in Durban the TGCSA will be hosting a 5 star pavilion for the first time.

"The indaba is a great SA Tourism trade show for international and local buyers to have match making opportunities. We already do a lot from an enterprise perspective and have an SME pavilion with products from all over SA," said Erasmus.

"This year we will also have a luxury pavilion to enable SMEs in the 5 star sector - for instance establishments with about 10 rooms - to have a platform. It is all about providing a platform and playing an enablement role."

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