Hoteliers accused of ‘apathy’ over grading

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Categories : Travel news

The Tourism Grading Council has accused the hotel and tourist accommodation industries of displaying apathy towards its current review of grading criteria.

This criticism is likely to fan the flames of a looming crisis over grading as Hotel & Restaurant has been sent some scathing attacks on the criteria, particularly from the upmarket guesthouse industry.

The Tourism Grading Council says industry comment is beginning to flow in as a result of workshops it has run has run in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg on the criteria for hospitality establishments in South Africa. The TGCSA plans to officially implement them in October.

The workshops (presented for associations that represent the hospitality industry) are specifically aimed at engaging members of those associations on the new grading criteria, the rationale for new criteria and the process by which the new criteria will be applied to establishments already carrying a star grading in South Africa. Hotel & Restaurant was invited to one of the meetings in Cape Town today but was not able to attend after sending an apology to a TGCSA marketing executive earlier this week.

Says Thembi Kunene, chief quality assurance officer at the TGCSA: "We began engaging with the industry more than 18 months ago when we first commenced with the review of the grading criteria. We invited, via an e-survey, all establishments to consult with us before we started this process. However, our emails to graded establishments were largely ignored."

The TGCSA has kept all records of its attempts to engage the industry. Kunene says she and her colleagues know exactly which establishments accepted the invitation to engage, and which did not bother. "However," she says, "we truly appreciate those members of the industry who took time out of their very busy schedules to give us their thoughts."

It was largely as a result of industry apathy, she says, that the TGCSA decided to present association workshops in the three major tourism cities this week. The TGCSA is deeply committed to inclusiveness in decision making and invites the industry to engage with it directly on the new criteria. This offer to engage remains open, she says.

The TGCSA began the process of redefining star grading criteria for accommodation establishments more than a year ago. This was because there were gaps in grading homogeny that, over time, had lead to incongruent grading of establishments that impacted on how consumer expectations were met in South Africa.

"It's important to understand that this is the first time in nine years that grading criteria are being reviewed. This first review will not be an easy change to adapt to by the industry. Going forward, the grading criteria will be reviewed every three years," Kunene says.

The TGCSA has posted the new grading criteria on its website to give the industry an opportunity to comment on them and, following the massive interest, has extended the deadline by another week to a deadline of 9 April 2010.

Industry comment is welcome (and invited) between now and April 9. The TGCSA will officially launch the new criteria at INDABA on May 8 in Durban.

After the launch at INDABA, establishments will be given until October when the criteria will be formally implemented.

"Thereafter, it is critical for establishment to realise that they will have 12 months to comply with the new criteria should they wish to retain their present star grading. We are fully committed to engaging extensively with industry players over all decisions we make that affect them. This applies as much to the grading criteria as it does to our other operations," Kunene says.

"We are happy that the industry is finally responding to this matter with such enthusiasm, and we invite those who run or own hospitality establishments to visit our website, study the new grading and use the mechanisms in place there to comment on the criteria."

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