The Minister of Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, today unveiled the new star Grading Plaque together with the Universal Accessibility (UA) Plaque for accommodation and MESE (meetings, exhibitions and special events) establishments. The unveiling took place in Port Elizabeth at the King Edward Hotel and Forest Hall Guest House.
“As a tourism industry we are very pleased with this milestone reached by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA). It is an important step in the establishment of an internationally competitive and credible grading system in South Africa,” Minister van Schalkwyk said. The TGCSA is the official quality assurance body for accommodation establishments in South Africa.
“The process to revise the grading system, which was started in 2008, has been extremely thorough and has resulted in world class standards that we as South Africans can be extremely proud of. The process entailed not only a review of our grading criteria and minimum requirements but also an overhaul of the entire operating system of the TGCSA in order to ensure a seamless process of managing quality assurance for tourism products. The role of the TGCSA in ensuring that we deliver on our promise of a quality experience to tourists visiting our country is critical,” the Minister said.
In 2010, South Africa saw more than 8 million tourist arrivals (8 073 552) to the country compared to just over 7 million (7 011 865) in 2009, which represents growth of more than 15%. The TGCSA plays an important role in the quality assurance of accommodation products where these tourists stay and in their experience of South Africa and its diversity.
“Our Grading Plaques are a symbol of the assurance we provide to tourists, both local and international, that they can rely on star graded establishments when making their choice of accommodation or conferencing establishment” Minister van Schalkwyk said.
“A significant amount of time and energy was spent during this process in fine-tuning the criteria to get them right for the industry. The aim was to not only ensure that South Africa can maintain its international competitiveness as a tourist destination, but indeed to show that we can be world leaders in terms of quality assurance.
“We are very grateful for the cooperation and contributions of thousands of establishments and a variety of industry stakeholders, including the FEDHASA (Federated Hospitality Industry of South Africa) family of members, other associations such as SATSA (the South African Tourism Services Association), BABASA (the Bed and Breakfast Association of South Africa) and NAA-SA (the National Accommodation Association of South Africa) as well as the current Accredited Grading Assessors,” the Minister said.
The previous grading criteria were originally introduced in 2002. Inconsistencies in the application of the grading criteria and minimum requirements, coupled with inadequate management processes and systems, led to a lack of uniformity in the awarding of stars.
The review of grading criteria was one of the key recommendations resulting from a comprehensive review of the TGCSA by KPMG in August 2008, during which the TGCSA was benchmarked against the British, Australian and New Zealand quality assurance systems.
The appointment in 2009 of Mr Peter Bacon as the new chairman Awards Committee of the TGCSA has also played a major part in instilling confidence in the changes that the TGCSA is currently implementing since the finalisation of the new grading criteria.
The key changes at the TGCSA include the following:
1. The appointment of Awards Committee Members covering a broader range of skills necessary to adjudicate the awarding of Star Grades, such as architecture, hospitality, décor, travel and Universal Accessibility.
2. The re-design of the Grading Plaque to be displayed by graded establishments.
o The TGCSA is taking back control of the Plaque, with a new design which reflects a serial number together with the clear message that states that “This Grading Plaque is the property of the TGCSA”, thus making it legal for the TGCSA to remove the plaque from those establishments who insist on displaying it although no longer graded.
o The new Consumer Protection Act which comes into effect in April 2011 further strengthens the TGCSA’s efforts in this regard.
3. The purchase and installation of a new IT Back-Office to ensure a seamless Grading Process to be followed by Accredited Grading Assessors whenever they assess properties around the country.
4. The introduction of an equitable grading fee structure.
o The TGCSA has introduced a grading fee structure that takes into consideration the rate charged by the establishment, the star grading applied for as well as the number of rooms. Previously, for example, a 9-room Guest House in Mthatha charging R600.00 pp was paying the exact same Grading Fee as a 9-room Guest House in central Port Elizabeth charging R2000.00 pp.
5. The appointment of four Provincial Master Assessors.
o Based in Johannesburg, Nelspruit, Durban and Cape Town, these professionals service all nine provinces. They ensure the presence of the TGCSA within provinces and are accessible to resolve issues on the ground, thus improving service levels for both the establishments as well as the Accredited Grading Assessors.
6. Under the new system, the total points that can be achieved are now 1000 versus the 460 previously. This demonstrates the many new areas that have been added for assessment and the rigorousness of the process.
7. The Performance Management and Annual Review of all Accredited Grading Assessors using a Service Provider Agreement signed with the TGCSA.
o The Provincial Master Assessors play a key role in ensuring that the Service Provider relationship that the TGCSA has with all its Accredited Assessors is implemented to the benefit of all establishments and to improve quality standards across the country.
8. Training for all Accredited Grading Assessors and all TGCSA Head Office Staff.
o The TGCSA is dramatically changing and improving both its internal processes as well as the actual Grading Criteria.
o Training for all is an absolute must.
o An annual refresher course on grading criteria and minimum requirements has been implemented.
9. Phasing out of ‘Internal Assessors’.
o Some hotel groups have their employees trained on the TGCSA system and have them accredited as Grading Assessors.
o Consultation has commenced with these groups to phase this out as the TGCSA can no longer accept people who are players and referees at the same time.
“The TGCSA, under the leadership of Ms Thembi Kunene, the Chief Quality Assurance Officer and Mr Bacon, the chairperson of the Awards Committee, has wholeheartedly embraced the responsibility of maintaining this internationally competitive quality assurance system. I would like to thank Ms Kunene and her team for their passion and dedication in ensuring our quality assurance is a leading global light. We believe that all the new developments bodes well for the tourism industry and most importantly the consumer,” Minister van Schalkwyk concluded.