IN HER OWN WORDS: LEXY RAMOROKA
Not everyone can say they knocked over a chocolate fountain in front of football great Arsène Wenger. Meet Lexy Ramoroka, the Group Marketing Services Manager at BON Hotels. She has had a remarkable career in the hospitality industry and has recently joined the BON team in Cape Town. We had a chat with her and asked her 12 good questions to get to know her better…
- What paths led you to your (relatively) new position at BON?
I studied Hospitality Management at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism & Hospitality (STH). My studies were funded by various bursaries and scholarships, including a bursary from the Butch Kerzner Memorial Trust and one from Protea Hotels by Marriott. I subsequently did my in-service training at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch, and quickly moved between Front Office, Guest Relations and Marketing.
When an opportunity came up for a Marketing Plan Coordinator role at the Protea Hotel by Marriott Transit O.R. Tambo Airport I grabbed it – as a transit hotel operates very differently from a ‘normal’ hotel. From there I moved into Corporate Sales for Marriott’s SSA properties for two years, and then onto the African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel as Sales & Marketing Manager in 2017. Once there, I spearheaded the hotel’s rebranding efforts when it joined Marriott’s prestigious Autograph Collection. I was also part of the opening team at the Johannesburg Marriott Hotel Melrose Arch, as well as the Marriott Executive Apartments Melrose Arch, as Cluster Corporate Sales Manager.
Since then, I’ve focused purely on my passion: Marketing.
I worked in Lusaka, Zambia for a stint, heading up the marketing department and rebranding roll-out for a stunning resort named Ciêla, when they joined Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio. Upon my return to South Africa last year, I had the pleasure of joining Fusion, Sun International’s Marketing Services division, looking after a number of their casinos (a mind-blowing learning experience) and hotels.
Next up? A move to Cape Town where I joined the BON team in October 2022.
- How’s it going so far?
I’ve had to adapt to a lot, including adjusting to life in the Mother City, but what a journey it has been! My very first impression was that BON people really are Good People. This team is tight-knit, works together and everyone is eager to not only learn – but to share insights and best-practice. The environment here is unmatched. Things often move very fast, and we have such a diverse portfolio that I’m often required to adapt to the ways and means of each property that I deal with in a unique and fitting way but it’s an exciting challenge that I’m still working on perfecting.
- What is it about the hospitality industry that you love so much?
All things travel-related tend to excite me, so the idea of being part of an industry whose main goals are to bring joy, serve guests to the highest standard, and make people feel at home, is certainly the reason I’m here.
- Looking back at your career, what milestones/achievements are you particularly proud of?
I’m proud of putting myself through university – and being awarded the bursaries and scholarships which allowed me to make it happen. More recently, I’m proud of being head-hunted for – and trusted with – the critical role I took on in Lusaka. I pushed through incredible homesickness (having just lost my mom), to make a success of the property’s marketing efforts during my time in Zambia. And now I’m delighted at having achieved my goal of bagging a group role, where I oversee the marketing services for our SA and eSwatini properties. But what I think I’m most proud of is my ability to tenaciously adapt to and make the most of any opportunity I get – a quality I believe has gotten me from my humble beginnings to where I am today.
- Hospitality is full-on, stressful and demanding … but also fun. Are there any unusual demands or outlandish memories that still make you laugh?
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup I worked as an F&B supervisor in the VIP and VVIP suites at the stadiums. It was an incredible experience, mostly due to the international big wigs and celebs I was serving. One day, Arsène Wenger asked for a sweet treat. I was so nervous and in awe that when I rushed to the chocolate fountain to get him his treat I actually knocked the fountain over and made a giant mess right in front of him! I laugh now, but then I wanted the earth to swallow me whole!
- It’s also a fast-paced industry, what do you reckon are the hottest trends in hospitality right now? Or, perhaps, trends that are bubbling under – but definitely worth keeping an eye on?
For me, there are definitely three trends to keep an eye on:
- Sustainability: More and more people are looking to do their bit for the environment by staying with hotels/brands that are demonstrating their commitment to protecting people and the planet. So much so, that increasingly data shows that travellers would pay more for sustainable products and service.
- Bleisure/Workcations: Many travellers, particularly younger travellers, often look to combine work trips with a bit of downtime – particularly popular are ‘work from anywhere’ policies which allow for business trips to become extended stays.
- Wellness and eco-travel: According to Euromonitor’s Travel Forecast Model for 2023, this sub-segment is expected to account for 57% of all travel packages worldwide in 2023.
- We know that that past three years have been extremely tough for anyone in travel and tourism, but what are the current challenges being faced by the hospitality industry?
Unfortunately, the industry is still nowhere near the number of tourist visits and revenues seen pre-pandemic – both globally and locally – and this poses many challenges as significant recovery is still underway. Staffing remains a challenge, with a number of hospitality and travel companies hard at work trying to fill the gaps. The cost of flights also remains a big issue – especially as South Africa is a long-haul destination for many international visitors. And finally, loadshedding, crime and the political climate in South Africa all impact a potential visitor’s decision-making process – and the onus is often on industry partners to showcase and promote what they’re doing to combat this in order to secure business – but who knows how many lost opportunities there are.
- BON’s culture and ethos is built on the pillars of Good People. Good Thinking. Good Feeling. What do the three pillars mean to you?
These pillars are a fundamental part of why I decided to join BON. It’s a company that puts its people first and treats us as human beings who are forward-thinking and passionate about working together for the good of all stakeholders. This is something that I’ve found to be true, the people here are all about teamwork, innovation and getting things done. Not only hard work, but through working smart as well, in order to achieve our shared goals quicker and better.
- What is your vision for BON Hotels?
For BON to be the leading independent hotel management company in Africa and beyond – for us to go from strength to strength, to grow our footprint, and to establish ourselves as the hotel group of choice.
- Outside of the travel and tourism industry, what are your passions? What could you talk about for hours?
I love animals, especially my gorgeous doggies, Mocha and Roscoe. I also love good food and I’m passionate about feeding myself and those nearest and dearest to me the most delicious and wholesome food.
- Favourite travel destination?
- Where to next?
Next up is Greece and Turkey.