by Celeste Adams

Striving for perfection

New TGCSA grading criteria a game-changer for hospitality

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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 and three new categories have been added: apartment hotels, small hotels and boutique hotels, says the TGCSA’s Chief Quality Assurance Officer, Darryl Erasmus.

“As part of our undertaking to industry, the review of our grading system and criteria need to ensure that we are 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 recent years we have seen an upsurge in South Africa in both newly built apartment hotels as well as more intimate and unique boutique hotels. We need to ensure that 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. The provision and access to Wi-Fi, for instance, 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,” says Erasmus.

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.

According to Erasmus it is no longer a requirement to have a fixed line telephone in a hotel, according to the 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 Wi-Fi.

“South Africa has in recent months had to deal with a number of environmental issues which 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 practicing responsible tourism practices,” he told Explore magazine

The TGCSA criteria for the Accolade for Responsible Tourism were sourced from the existing South African National Standard SANS 1162 for Responsible Tourism Standards.

Travel agents should keep in mind that the category and the star grading level awarded to properties annually are by far the most important for them 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 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 its 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.

“To showcase our enhancements to the grading system and accolades, we recently hosted a roadshow across all nine provinces in South Africa. 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 and especially the new star grading level and the new accolade recognition mechanism, which are by far the most talked about developments. We are excited to implement these enhancements and allow our members to benefit from the new standards and differentiation value proposition,” according to Erasmus.

He says, 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. Erasmus says they are invigorated to see that their contribution, through the provision of their 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.

“Much time and energy has gone into setting grading standards that best suit the tourism industry. This helps South Africa to maintain its international competitiveness as a tourist destination. The tangible rewards of our efforts made, show that we too can be world leaders when it comes to quality assurance. Immense gratitude goes out to the thousands of our graded establishments, our valuable industry stakeholders, as well as our accredited grading assessors whose professionalism and dedication bring it all together.

“The TGCSA’s Grading Criteria has come a very long way since its introduction in 2002. Following the most recent revision of our criteria, implemented on 1 April 2019, the new grading system is far more thorough, more consistent and follows stringent quantitative and qualitative core requirement and quality standards. We have not just reviewed our grading standards, but we’ve also refreshed and fine-tuned our entire TGCSA operating system, which now runs so much smoother,” Erasmus concludes.

Celeste Adams

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