BON People


Greg Sparke lights up when he speaks about the hospitality, travel, and tourism industry. Starting as a bartender in the 90s, Greg hiked up the hospitality ladder and is now the Group Operations Director at BON Hotels. He has gained much expertise and wisdom in his 25 years in the industry and shares some of it with us in his insightful and entertaining answers to our questions below.

How has your strategy evolved to meet modern travellers’ changing needs and expectations?

BON Hotels’ properties have diversified their offerings. Focusing on one dimension of a hotel, for example, bed and breakfast, conferences, or corporate packages, no longer works.

Having a multidimensional approach is paramount to meeting guests’ needs and expectations. So, including other aspects, such as personalised experiences, unique amenities, and digital connectivity or things like rate flexibility and food and beverage offerings, is vital.

Could you describe any successful guest loyalty or rewards programmes your hotel group has implemented to enhance guest retention and satisfaction?

Our BonAmi loyalty programme is growing steadily. It offers perks like complimentary vouchers, reduced room rates, and dining discounts. The membership fee is just R690 a year, and it allows members access to benefits worth over R16,000, making it a fantastic value proposition.

Is sustainability becoming increasingly important for the group, and if so, can you describe a current initiative or project?

Many of our properties are undertaking energy-saving projects, addressing load shedding and embracing renewable energy. Our Cape Winelands property, Protea Hotel Durbanville, is the first to take a holistic approach and is looking to implement a comprehensive energy solution.

Similarly, how important is DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)? And what steps have you taken to recruit, train, and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce?

BON Hotels is a very inclusive company and continues to recruit in line with DEI policies. Our trainee programme is a game-changer for those looking to enter the hospitality industry but don’t have the resources to study further. On-the-job training is also part of the day-to-day at our properties.

What do you believe sets BON Hotels apart from the competition?

Flexibility in the contracts we offer.

How long have you been in the hospitality, travel, and tourism industry?

I joined as a barman in August 1998, so 25 years this year.

What do you love about it?

The relationships built along the way, and knowing that you are responsible for someone having a good trip or not.

And what do you love about the BON family?

As a small team, we work very closely with each other, and we get to know each other really well.

What is your favourite story (wacky or wild) or guest/staff/candidate interaction?

Years ago, we received a complaint that the microwave in the room wasn’t working. The more that it was explained that our rooms don’t have microwaves, the more the guest complained. When Management went to the room to see where the problem was, the guest had put her KFC in the safe and couldn’t understand why it didn’t work.

What are the hottest emerging trends in the industry today?

Embracing technology and sustainability.

What are today’s guests looking for regarding their stay?

Contactless interactions – guests want technology that leads interaction, but they also want the knowledge that a human is available when things don’t go according to plan. Everything must be easy, from making reservations to ordering room service or any other amenity in the hotel.

With load shedding, inflation, and our current socioeconomic climate, it can be hard to stay positive. What keeps you going?

The opportunity to make a difference. As long as there are people willing to try, there is hope.

The hospitality industry is pretty full-on; what attributes does a person need to succeed and thrive? In other words, what do you look for in a candidate?

A great attitude and a willingness to learn. We can teach skills, but if the attitude is wrong, all hope is lost. Hospitality is not a job; it’s a career and a way of life. If you’re looking for a job, this is not the industry for you.

What is your advice to those starting their career in the industry and hoping to go far?

Be willing to make the sacrifices early; you’ll reap the benefits later. Always be willing to learn and adapt.

Besides BON Hotels (of course), what is your favourite travel experience in the world?

Exploring Mpumalanga and the Panorama Route right up to, and including, Hoedspruit.

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