GET THOSE SKILLS GOING TO SUPPORT TOURISM UPSWING, SAYS HEINEKEN BEVERAGES 

South Africa’s post-pandemic bounce-back in tourism, helped in part by a weaker rand, makes it a critical priority to accelerate upskilling in hospitality and tourism, according to Millicent Maroga, corporate affairs director for HEINEKEN Beverages. She was speaking against the background of the countrywide launch of the 2023 Inter Hotel Challenge.

HEINEKEN Beverages has assumed the headline sponsorship of the competition, taking over from the Distell Group, following its acquisition by HEINEKEN Beverages in April.  

Eric Leong Son, head of sustainability for HEINEKEN Beverages, highlighted the collaborative nature of the initiative, reminding those present at the Cape Town launch, of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Maroga said the company was helping to ignite and sustain careers in hospitality and tourism, by giving talent a chance to excel and grow for the long term. Some category winners in the competition, she said, would earn once-in-a-lifetime mentorships abroad with internationally renowned experts, as well as certified training with local specialists. 

She outlined how the Inter Hotel Challenge, now in its 11th year, was succeeding in fast-tracking training in hotel and restaurant services, from wine stewards to mixologists, chefs, bakers, baristas and more. 

“Independent and hotel chains that have chosen to enter are required to send nominated staff to a series of regional workshops presented by experts in their field. This prepares contestants for the national finals in which they have to demonstrate their specific proficiencies, be it wine knowledge and food and wine pairing; mixology skills; food preparation and presentation prowess; or the ability to make the perfect cup of coffee.” 

Winners receive meaningful prizes and, in the case of the wine, mixology and cheffing category, the chance to be mentored abroad by legendary talents, as well as bursaries to build locally on their existing know-how.”  

Orientation workshops for the challenge would run in the three major metropoles during August and September, with the national finals taking place in October.  Winners will be announced on 28 November. 

She made the point that this year’s challenge was taking place at a time when tourism levels were moving towards the pre-Covid levels of 2019, according to Stats SA (1). More specifically, in the Western Cape, Wesgro CEO Wrenelle Stander had gone on record to confirm that summer 2022/23 visits had already exceeded those of 2019, (2).  

Those encouraging trends, Maroga said, had been followed by more good news. She cited the country’s twin triumph at last month’s (July) 2023 The Telegraph Travel Awards, when South Africa had taken the title of the world’s best country to visit, and Cape Town had claimed the crown as the world’s best city (3). The UK, where The Telegraph is published, is the biggest source of overseas visitors to the country. In other awards, the country had also featured very well on the list of the world’s top 50 vineyards (4) and had one listing on the coveted world’s 50 best restaurants (5). 

HEINEKEN Beverages would be taking specific responsibility for the mentoring and academic training of category winners that involved wine service, mixology and academic excellence achieved in courses run by both the Cape Wine Academy and the SA Sommeliers’ Academy. 

Last year’s winner of the Wine Steward of the Year award Pieter Bekker of the Taj Cape Town had spent time training in Ireland’s County Mayo. He had also completed his Level 2, junior sommelier training with the SA Sommeliers’ Academy. Moreover, he had been the only South African candidate in 2023 to have achieved Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) certification (Level 1).

Sommeliers Academy Jean Vincent Ridon said of recent past winners: “In South Africa, their mentors are amongst the most experienced in the industry, transferring skills that would not be available in any school.” 

Tiago Sarmento, General Manager, of Cape Town’s iconic Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town that is a regular participant in the challenge, said it was a great motivator for staff to up their game. “I have worked in 13 countries thus far and I can say that this contest is without a doubt the most comprehensive and inspiring of any I have encountered. It gives young people the opportunity to shine and creates a pipeline of inspiration for those who follow.” 

The challenge makes a significant contribution to building and honing much-needed hospitality skills in South Africa and the group is exceptionally proud of our Southern Sun people for their achievements to date. The winners’ commitment to mentoring and supporting their colleagues, passing the torch of excellence to a new generation each year, is one of the most engaging aspects of this Challenge, which is anchored to the transfer of skills and mentorship in the hospitality sector, says Andrew Hosking, Southern Sun Operations Director, central northern region.

Returning to Stats SA data, Maroga said tourists from the UK had topped the 2022 overseas visitor list, followed by the US and Germany. Zimbabwe had led the Southern African Development Community (SADC) visitor list, followed by Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana (1). 

Most visitors (95,3%) visited the country on holiday, spending four to eight days (1). Popular spots included the Western Cape and its Winelands and game farms across the country. Also noteworthy, she said, was that domestically, household expenditure during the first quarter of 2023, grew year-on-year by 7%. This had obviously impacted positively on the hospitality industry.”

Participating hotels & wine/spirit brands:
CAPE TOWN (WESTERN CAPE)

MOUNT NELSON, A BELMOND HOTEL, CAPE TOWN 
PONGRÁCZ & AMARULA

PROTEA HOTEL BY MARRIOTT® CAPE TOWN WATERFRONT BREAKWATER LODGE 
NEDERBURG & VAN RYN’S BRANDY 

QUEEN VICTORIA HOTEL & MANOR HOUSE WATERFRONT 
PONGRÁCZ & CRUZ VODKA

SOUTHERN SUN ARABELLA HOTEL, GOLF & SPA 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

SOUTHERN SUN CAPE SUN 
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

SOUTHERN SUN THE CULLINAN 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

TAJ CAPE TOWN 
NEDERBURG & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

THE LAGOON BEACH HOTEL 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

THE PRESIDENT HOTEL 
NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

THE SILO HOTEL 
PONGRÁCZ & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

TWELVE APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY 

JOHANNESBURG (GAUTENG)

54 ON BATH 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & AMARULA

INTERCONTINENTAL JOHANNESBURG O.R. TAMBO  
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

IVORY MANOR BOUTIQUE HOTEL 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & CRUZ VODKA 

JOHANNESBURG MARRIOTT HOTEL MELROSE ARCH 
PONGRÁCZ & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

SANDTON SUN & TOWERS  
PONGRÁCZ & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

SUN CITY CONVENTION CENTRE 
NEDERBURG & AMARULA

SUN CITY HOTEL, SUN CITY RESORT 
NEDERBURG & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

THE PALACE OF THE LOST CITY 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

TOADBURY HALL COUNTRY HOTEL 
PONGRÁCZ & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

KWAZULU-NATAL

BEVERLY HILLS 
PONGRÁCZ & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

DURBAN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE 
PONGRÁCZ & VAN RYN’S BRANDY 

SOUTHERN SUN ELANGENI & MAHARANI  
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

SOUTHERN SUN THE EDWARD 
NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

THE OYSTER BOX 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & AMARULA

Sources of data listed above:  
https://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=16327  
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2023-05-22-wine-tourism-restore-sa-damaged-image/ 
https://newtelegraphng.com/south-africa-clinches-double-awards-at-2023-telegraph-travel-awards/  https://www.worldsbestvineyards.com/list/1-50 
https://www.theworlds50best.com/list/Individual-Awards 

To find out more about the premium wine and spirit brands visit www.vinoteque.co.za
The online store of HEINEKEN Beverages’ fine wines and spirits. 

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