IN HIS OWN WORDS: GARETH VENNER
With over 25 years in tourism, leisure and hospitality, BON’s Group Sales Director, Gareth Venner, has plenty of experience when it comes to the ups and downs, ins and outs, and fun and games of the industry, including serving 180 wedding guests ice cream and hot chocolate sauce after an infamous malva pudding incident. We couldn’t wait to chat more about the industry he loves so much, so we sat him down and asked him a few good questions …
1. How many years have you been in the hospitality, travel and tourism industry?
All together about 25 years, across various segments and job functions.
2. What do you love about it?
Definitely the people – and the ever-changing environment.
3. What is your favourite story (wacky or wild)?
There are so many to choose from! But while I was still at school I worked in a small catering company that specialised in weddings. I remember having to make Malva Pudding for 180 wedding guests – and used Maizena instead of flour. Someone had put the incorrect package in the container marked as flour. Let’s just say it mixed forever and they ended up with ice cream and chocolate sauce!
4.What do you love about the BON family?
The Good People I work with. Each staff member has a passion for the industry and we feed off each other’s strengths and energy.
5. What sets BON apart from other hotel groups?
The intimacy and camaraderie. Everyone is included in all facets of the business and all opinions matter. We grow and succeed as a team.
6. What strategies do you employ to build long-term relationships with corporate clients and encourage repeat business?
Be honest, understand their business objectives, and think outside of the box to build a real partnership – not just a relationship – whereby both organisations can win and achieve their end goals.
7. With loadshedding, inflation and our current socioeconomic climate, it can be hard to be positive. What keeps you going?
Generators, inverters and coffee. (Just kidding!) The South African market understands the situation we are in, and we need to work together to see positive change.
8. What is the hottest trend in the MICE sector at the moment?
It is back to face to face! But more than that, the standard boring conference set up of old is no longer cutting it; we need to be innovative with set ups and offerings to make it a memorable experience for everyone involved.
9. How do you keep up with the latest trends in the hospitality industry and incorporate them into your hotel’s offerings?
Honest, verbal feedback is still the best. Speak to you customer after the event and share this feedback with your team, allowing them to innovate even further and enhance offerings. My first 30 minutes in the office is spent on reading the multiple industry media and newsletters – I love this industry, it’s dynamic, exciting and challenging.
10. What changed – if anything – post pandemic in terms of your sales and marketing strategy?
Loyalty is increasingly important. You need to understand your customer and what their overall objective is. There are so many choices out there, they will go with the person or brand they are most comfortable with.
11. How do you use customer feedback and reviews to improve your sales and marketing strategies?
Sharing is caring. I try to share customer feedback, both positive and negative, with the team and we workshop it where possible to ensure we build on our successes and learn from our mistakes. And it’s important to celebrate the successes, no matter how small.