National Accommodation Association of SA on the state of accommodation and e implementation of the new grading system in terms of successes and challenges

Committee: Tourism

Chairperson: Mr D Gumede (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 14 Nov 2011

Summary

The National Accommodation Association of South Africa (NAA-SA) briefed the Committee on the state of accommodation and the implementation of the new grading system in terms of successes and challenges. The NAA-SA was essentially the “voice” for the smaller accommodation industry in South Africa. Most of the concerns that the smaller accommodation industry had related to the new grading criteria introduced by the Tourism Grading Council of SA (TGCSA). After discussion with the TGCSA agreement was reached over the concerns. The number of guesthouses belonging to the NAA-SA that has embraced the new grading criteria in 2011 was 471. This was 53% of its 900 membership. The NAA-SA encouraged its members to get graded. It even provided discounts on membership fees if the establishment was graded. Grave concerns regarding TGCSA was that people who make decisions should understand smaller accommodation establishments, what was the point of getting graded if establishments received no value from it, communication with TGCSA was difficult as often calls were not returned and there was a long response time to emails. One solution suggested by some of NAA-SA’s associations was to have representation on the awards committee required by all sectors that require grading. For example persons who know and understand the offerings of various establishments like bush lodges, guesthouses and hotels should sit on the awards committee. Grading was far too expensive and in the current economic climate smaller establishments could simply not afford it. The NAA-SA felt that more resources should be allocated to the TGCSA so that it could better assist with queries and concerns.

Members appreciated the briefing as it had given insight from the perspective of the smaller establishments in the tourism industry. The NAA-SA gave the smaller players a united voice. This was especially important since the Chairperson had pointed out that small players made up 80% of the industry. It was however clear that a great deal of work still needed to be done to convince the majority of small establishments to get graded. The Committee considered outstanding minutes but postponed its adoption as a quorum of members was lacking. Members also discussed its possible international tour to Mexico which was provisionally planned for the 20 January - 28/29 January 2012.
 


Minutes

National Accommodation Association of SA briefing
The National Accommodation Association of SA (NAA-SA) briefed the Committee on the state of accommodation and the implementation of the new grading system in terms of successes and challenges. The briefing was undertaken by Ms Caroline Ungersbock, NAA- SA President. She had held the position since May 2011.

The NAA-SA was founded in 2000, when local smaller accommodation associations from three different provinces wanted to set up provincial associations working with the already established local associations within their province. These provinces wanted to ultimately achieve a national body that would become the “voice” for the smaller accommodation industry in SA. 

The core purpose of the NAA-SA was to assist, inform and support smaller accommodation establishments. Throughout the years the NAA-SA has been represented on national tourism bodies such as Tourism and Hospitality SETA (THETA) now called the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA), Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) and Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) East Coast. In addition to this NAA-SA were also associate members of Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA). The NAA-SA presently had a seat on the board of TBCSA. The NAA-SA had a good relationship with the National Department of Tourism. Its relationship with the TGCSA started many years ago. However, on the 27 June 2010, the TGCSA called a meeting to address the concerns of smaller establishments. There were 19 concerns that the NAA-SA brought to the attention of the TGCSA. Some of the concerns that establishments had with the new grading criteria was to have 24 hour security, 24 hour room service and 24 hour receptions. It was not sustainable to have these in smaller establishments. Other requirements were that there needed to be armchairs for the number of people that a room could accommodate and that 14 hangers should be provided in a bedroom. Why these were required was the question that many establishments asked. After discussion with the TGCSA agreement was reached over the concerns. Since then there had been an ongoing working relationship. The NAA-SA had close to 900 paid up members. The number of guesthouses belonging to the NAA-SA that had embraced the new grading criteria in 2011 was 471. This was 53% of its membership. The NAA-SA encouraged its members to get graded. It even provided discounts on membership fees if the establishment was graded.

Some of the complaints before being graded were why should one pay to be graded, pay according to the number of rooms or pay according to the establishment’s advertised rates. If one should pay for grading it should be a flat rate. Common complaints after being graded with the new criteria were that establishments did not receive certificates and plaques. Some assessors were also unprofessional and their establishments could not be found on the TBCSA website. Grave concerns regarding TGCSA was that people who made decisions should understand smaller accommodation establishments, what was the point of getting graded if establishments received no value from it, communication with TGCSA was difficult as often calls were not returned and there was a long response time to emails. One solution suggested by some of NAA-SA’s associations was to have representation on the awards committee required by all sectors that require grading. For example persons who know and understand the offerings of various establishments like bush lodges, guesthouses and hotels should sit on the awards committee. Grading was far too expensive and in the current economic climate smaller establishments could simply not afford it. More resources should be allocated to the TGCSA so that it could better assist with queries and concerns. The NAA-SA had embarked on a national road show where workshops had been held on the Consumer Protection Act and on responsible tourism. It covered 15 smaller towns across seven provinces.

Discussion
The Chairperson was under the impression that hotel standards were being applied by the Tourism Grading Council of SA to smaller enterprises who could not meet those standards. He was however confident that the issue could be resolved by engagement between parties.

Ms M Njobe (COPE) pointed out that NAA-SA dismissed the demands of the TGSA as being too stringent on its members to comply. However true this may be, she nevertheless felt that NAA-SA members should at least comply with some of the minimum standards required by the TGCSA.
It would have helped the Committee if the presentation had spoken about the vision and mission of NAA-SA. A breakdown of the organisational structure of NAA-SA would also have been appreciated. If NAA-SA had national and provincial structures, how were provincial structures co-ordinated? The presentation had alluded to the fact that seven plus one province had joined NAA-SA, which province had not joined and what was the reason. The presentation had also spoken about NAA-SA engaging with government and the tourism industry. What did it actually involve? If some guesthouses had closed down because of the slump in the economy, which areas were mostly affected?

Ms Ungersbock agreed that information on the organisational structure of the NAA-SA could be elaborated upon. The vision of the NAA-SA was essentially to represent the smaller players in the tourism industry and to be there for them. She was only in the position as President of NAA-SA for the past six months. In that time she had moved the offices of NAA-SA from Kwazulu-Natal to Gauteng. There was however still a pilot office in Kwazulu-Natal.

At present NAA-SA was represented in all nine provinces. The NAA-SA had embarked on roadshows to make itself better known. As had been previously stated the national office was now located in Gauteng. There were regional offices in the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal in Mosselbay on the Garden Route but offices in other provinces were also planned. The NAA-SA also worked with local associations. A total of 49 associations had joined the NAA-SA. She felt that the NAA-SA had made great strides in the last six months. The NAA-SA also had three mentorship programmes in Rustenburg, Gauteng and one located near Pretoria. The one in Rustenburg was overseen by associations in the area. The programme in Gauteng was located in Soweto. It was to assist 30 guesthouses to upgrade their facilities with internet and credit card facilities etc. The programme near Pretoria would address similar issues as encountered in Soweto. The NAA-SA working with CATHSETA was also involved in skills training programmes. Government funding had been obtained and 50 individuals would be trained for a period of 18 months. Seminars were going to be offered via the internet as well.
The guesthouses that had closed down were mainly in coastal areas. Fewer visitors were coming from Europe. Guesthouses that had closed down were along the Garden Route, the South and North Coasts. Areas where guesthouses were booming were near mining towns like Kuruman and in university towns like Howick, Hilton and Grahamstown. Guesthouses in the Mashisheng area was also booming but unfortunately these guesthouses were not graded. The issue was however being addressed.

Mr G Krumbock (DA) stated that it was nice to have a presenter who was not politically correct and said things as they were. He noted that Howick had many retirement villages which were visited by the children of its residents. The booming guesthouse business was as a result of those visits.  He asked about the NAA-SA’s experiences when supposed graded establishments were visited and it later came to light that such establishments were in fact not graded. Did such experiences not let alarm bells go off? It made the grading system lose its credibility and it damaged international branding. What action was being taken against such establishments? He hoped that there was some sort of sanction.

Mr Krumbock was concerned about the fact that when people tried to call the TGCSA, people could not get through. The last thing that tourism needed was impediments. What had been done about the problem? Did the NAA-SA have a meeting with the top management of the TGCSA over the issue? Had the Minister been informed?

Ms Ungersbock replied that the TGCSA needed more resources. The organisation lacked capacity- there were only 4-5 people working for the entity. The TGCSA also had problems with its supplier of its plaques.
She noted that establishments like those referred to by Mr Krumbock were reported to the TGCSA by NAA-SA. What the TGCSA did about the problem she had no idea. It was an 18 month process to cleanup establishments that had not been graded. Establishments which had not renewed their grading were asked by the NAA-SA to remove their certificates and plaques. The NAA-SA tried to implement the Consumer Protection Act. On the issue of registrations as contained in the Tourism Draft Bill, the NAA-SA had spoken to the Department about putting an end to the practices in question.  

The Chairperson asked whether the NAA-SA received requests for support from areas like Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape and Soweto in Gauteng. How did the NAA-SA find discussions with the Department and the TGCSA? Problems could only be solved by ongoing discussions. He asked why a representative from the Ministry was not present in the meeting.

Ms Ungersbock confirmed that there were ongoing discussions with the TGCSA. Most of the concerns that the NAA-SA had, had already been addressed. The NAA-SA and the TGCSA had already gone through the process. Referring to support given to areas like Mitchells Plain she conceded that the NAA-SA had thin membership in the Western Cape. The issue of upping the membership in the Western Cape was receiving attention. In Gauteng the NAA-SA was strong and there was support given where it was needed. 

Ms X Makasi (ANC) stated that on a visit to Khayelitsha guesthouses had complained that they had been asked to upgrade their premises in order to fulfil grading requirements. However after the upgrades had been done nobody came to grade them. Where could these guesthouses go to have their grievances seen to?

Ms Njobe spoke on the quality of accommodation offered and asked was there a way in which the NAA-SA could visit its members and check on it.

Ms Ungersbock stated that chairpersons of local associations could visit members’ establishments to check on the quality of accommodation on offer. If establishments were not graded they were given 6 months to get graded. She hoped that more of the NAA-SA’s members could become assessors. The membership fee of the NAA-SA was R400 per annum and R80 per room. If an establishment was graded it got a R50 discount. If the establishment had public liability insurance it got another R50 discount.

The Chairperson stated that 80% of the tourism industry comprised of small businesses. He was glad small businesses had a united voice in NAA-SA. Grading standards needed to be relooked at as the same yardstick could not be used for large and small establishments. Tourism should be one of the drivers of the South African economy. Could South Africa afford to have non graded establishments because it was too expensive to be graded? This was an issue which needed to be considered. Grading assessors also needed to have an understanding of the industry. The industry should be demand driven. Customers should be given what they want. Service levels should be improved. The Committee supported the idea that more resources were needed towards the tourism industry.
He stated that the Committee would invite the NAA-SA to its next tourism summit.

Committee Minutes
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would consider various sets of minutes and make changes if needed but could not adopt them as a quorum of members was lacking.

The Committee considered minutes dated 12 April 2011, 14 June 2011, 21 June 2011, 30 August 2011, 6 September 2011, 13 September 2011 and 8 November 2011. Minor changes were effected to the minutes of the 21 June 2011 and 6 September 2011, the rest remained unchanged. The Committee agreed to consider the various sets of minutes for adoption the following week.

International Study Tour
Mr Jerry Boltina, Committee Secretary, mentioned that the Committee had planned to undertake an international study tour to Mexico, Spain or Malaysia. The latter two countries had failed to respond to the request for a visit. Mexico had responded and an application had been submitted. The planned duration of the visit would be from the 20 January 2012 – 28/29 January 2012. The House Chairperson would notify the Committee about the success or failure of its application by the end of the day. In the meantime, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation had been asked to inform the SA Embassy in Mexico to come up with a programme for the Committee. The plans were thus on track.

Ms Joyce Ntuli, Committee Researcher, informed the Committee that at the end of the previous week the House Chairperson had stated in a communication that the period 17–27 January 2012 would be reserved for study tours and oversight visits and that all Members were expected to be in Parliament on 24 and 25 January 2012. She was not sure whether Mr Boltina was aware of the communication.

Ms Makasi stated that the Committee would only be back on the 28/29 January 2012.

Mr Boltina was not aware of the communication by the House Chairperson. Originally the Committee would have gone on the study tour in July or August 2011. Instead, it had been asked to choose a time that Parliament was not sitting, hence the planned tour from the 20 January - 28/29 January 2012. It was best that the Committee wait till later in the day for the response from the House Chairperson.

The Chairperson agreed that it was best to hear what the House Chairperson had to say. He was not sure that Parliament sat before its official opening.

The meeting was adjourned.