21 Nov 2012
Founded by chief executive officer Guy Stehlik and his partner John Saliba (executive director) in 2012, Bon Hotels is set to revolutionise independent hotel management concepts, according to Stehlik.
The pair has opened many hotels in the course of their careers and now they feel the time is right to embark on this new venture.
Stehlik says the South African hotel sector is going through exceptionally tough times with the latest estimates noting that over 20 percent of South African hotels are non-profitable and a large number are in various stages of distress.
“Game lodges, many 5 star boutique-type hotels and remote country inns appear to be the worst affected.”
He says the value for money perception guests have of a property will impact on whether they return, or recommend the hotel – pointing out that today’s guests are savvy and more streetwise and will vote with their feet if they detect a rip-off.
The founders and management team with a combined hospitality experience of over 100 years have seen many changes in the industry itself and have experienced first-hand some of these changes as guests.
Others include Riaan Raubenheimer (facilities and procurement manager), Natasha Bester (marketing services manager) and Brenda Diedericks (sales and marketing manager).
Bon Hotels has signed its first contract to manage Africa’s greenest hotel property, Hotel Verde scheduled to open in June 2013.
Stehlik (42) has been in the hotel industry almost all his life, his father is a renowned hotelier, Otto Stehlik, a director and chairman at Protea Hotels.
“We are personally invested in the hotel business and I am committed to putting my knowledge and years of experience in the hotel industry, into delivering a more relevant, modern approach.”
At the age of eight, he was a pageboy at the Heerengracht Hotel as part of his holiday and weekend work.
The property is successfully trading with happy guests and a healthy financial balance book.
Speaking to Property24 at the launch, Stehlik says the name Bon is French meaning good and in keeping up with the name’s sake, Bon Hotels is all about all things good – good people, good thinking and good feeling.
To better understand this, he says launching a hotel management company now has never been a good time.
Through the team’s industry experience, Bon Hotels has taken the best systems and knowledge from what has worked in the past, and combined it with a progressive approach that works for the establishments that they manage, hotel owners, and the guests who are their patrons, he explains.
Since hotel guests are on the prowl for value for money regardless of whether they stay in a 3 Star of 5 Star hotel property, he says the value they create through their management systems far outweighs the rates they charge.
Think of it this way, it’s like getting exceptional 5 Star service even when you checked into a 3 Star hotel - emphasis is on value for money built on sound business strategies.
“In the current circumstances, a management company such as ours could travel the country and quite easily pick up contracts.”
He notes that this was the tactic adopted during better economic times by certain hotel groups that today are either embattled or no longer exist – they took literally anything they could get.
Bon Hotels, however, will not adopt that strategy: their intention is to take on only those hotels where they are absolutely convinced they can add real value to the hotel guest and hotel owner.
“This may mean that our growth is relatively slow (the group has, in fact, published no initial target schedules), but that does not worry us.
“We have the resources, the income stream and the financial backing to operate at the pace we choose and we will be careful about signing new deals.”
Asked what it is they will do differently, Stehlik says a lot of good has come out of many hotel management companies in South Africa as the tried and trusted formulas have certainly worked.
The shift has now changed to innovation and technology which has turned the world into a global digital village.
He feels that in South Africa, and in particular the hotel industry, is not fully embracing technology and this is an area in which Bon Hotels will capitalise on and ensure they stand out from the crowd, along with what their plan is in this business.
For example, he says they have set performance standard clauses including the hotel owner’s bill of rights which clearly states what each part should be.
Stehlik points out that hotel management is one thing but actually delivering on that is another.
Having been involved in the industry this long, he doesn’t believe that the level of hotel management is good enough; more still needs to be done, to adapt to the ever changing global economic environment, hotel trends and guest requirements, and embracing technology and innovation as well.
He says the hotel market in South Africa is currently oversupplied especially in the 5 Star market and notes that the market is experiencing very high fixed costs and these are set to stabilise in 2015.
“Of course, there are certain pockets where there is demand for hotel rooms, although not at high levels”
He also notes financing for new hotel properties is tough and those owning hotels need to enhance the value of their offerings as savvy guests can pick and choose where to stay.
Asked on properties they will look at managing, he says the key thing worth knowing is that as with residential property, there are a lot of distressed hotels in the market, the Garden Route being one such place.
However, well located hotel properties, despite what the numbers say, will continue to thrive provided they are managed and run properly.
“Decent branding will no doubt ensure the success of such properties and we will be looking at properties in which we can add value and not just sign contracts to grow our portfolio.”
He adds that because Bon Hotels is staffed by people who have lived and worked in the hotel industry all their lives, they are in a very good position to help nourish and revive hotel partners, not only in South Africa but at a later stage in their development in Africa and overseas. – Denise Mhlanga
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