Salome Tshungu always dreamt of starting her own bed and breakfast. But the final push came in 2005 when she experienced “horrible” service while staying at a guesthouse in Ermelo.
“We were freezing cold and the staff didn’t care. The air-conditioner was blowing hot and cold air at the same time,” Tshungu said.
The next morning breakfast was already laid out when they got to the dining room. “The plates were cold, the bacon hardened and there was a black cat sitting next to the toast,” she continued.
That was when Tshungu decide to leave her job as human resources practitioner at a global cosmetics house to pursue her dream. She and her husband, Cliff, bought a house in Ermelo and started their first bed and breakfast.
But it wasn’t until Tshungu was invited to join the Tsogo Sun enterprise development programme that her business really took off. SunCares is Tsogo Sun’s CSI umbrella, under which the Book-a Guesthouse programme was started as a pilot project in Soweto seven years ago. The initial intention of the programme was to develop, mentor and coach accommodation establishments that displayed potential to be sustainable enterprises.
Tsogo Sun Chief Marketing Officer Rob Collins remembered being “blown away” by the quality of guesthouses he saw in Soweto.
“When you check the visitors’ books at these establishments you discover comments from international travellers who are looking for the unique South African experience,” Collins said.
Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk recalled visiting Lolo’s Guesthouse in Diepkloof. His son so enjoyed Mama Lolo’s scones, he was given a container-full to take home, “He ate those scones for three days until my wife decided it was not healthy to have more,” Van Schalkwyk said.
Presently the project concentrates on the empowerment of black women and developing the local tourism industry.
So far 60 township guesthouses in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have gone through the three-year programme. Intensive business support is provided during the first year, while general support is given in the second year and the third year sees the enterprise receiving monitored support.
“In this way, by the end of the third year, the guesthouses are independent, well-run and well-managed sustainable businesses,” said Tsogo Sun’s Empowerment Manager Candy Tothill.
Graduates remain in the programme as alumni, give back through the new entrepreneur mentorship programme and continue to receive sales, marketing and opportunities support.
Tothill said the member establishments had grown to achieve estimated combined revenue of R15.5 million and through their sustainability had indirectly created more than 2 000 jobs.
Now in her third year of the programme, Tshungu said the Book-a-Guesthouse programme had kept her “smiling and shining”.
Her establishment in Midrand, The Orchards Executive Guest House, was named the overall winner of the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award (ETEYA) 2012 in Gauteng, and a second runner-up in the National ETEYA Competition.
Tshungu thanked Tsogo Sun for inviting her to the programme but warned they were creating a monster, “We are your competition, you know,” she joked.