SA's Tourism Grading Council has 17 new accolades coming into effect: Here's what you should look out for

There are certain experiences and attractions that travellers just naturally gravitate towards when choosing a holiday – but in reality - no two destinations are the same.

And thank goodness for that.

When it comes to South Africa, the idea of taking shorter breaks more often means we’re so spoiled for choice.

Being able to easily and effectively identify what and where we’ll find the kinds of experiences we’re looking for, is useful. And in SA’s case it is about to become a bit more simpler.

The new and revised grading standards for the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA), approved by Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in November, will come into effect from 01 April 2019.

READ: 27 Ways to take shorter breaks more often across Mzansi

Speaking to Traveller24 in the midst of a major road show to inform its members of the changes, Darryl Erasmus, Tourism Grading Council of South Africa’s Chief Quality Assurance Officer, says 70 assessors have had one-to-one sessions with its members - in order to explain the new changes and systems set to come into effect. 

“We’ve put new goalposts in place and the previous criteria is no longer applicable. These road shows are being done as a courtesy so they can begin to ready themselves for the new changes,” says Erasmus.

The new grading criteria includes the introduction of two new categories in the form of “apartment hotels” and “small hotels” in which the luxury form (boutique hotels) would be encompassed. Erasmus defines these as hotels with under 80 rooms or less.

He explains the category for boutique hotels, however, there are two big differences.

“These would be luxury stays at 4 or 5-star level, with every single one of the rooms needing to be difference in décor or layout – originality and uniqueness is essentially what defines this hotel category.”  

Apartment hotels on the other hand would need to have self-catering kitchens and dining facilities in every room.

In addition to this, Erasmus says grading levels have been enhanced and will now also include a new 5-Star Premium grading level, which is a recognition reserved for the pinnacle of luxury product in South Africa.

“This will only be for those products that far exceed premium expectations with respect to quality standards and service excellence,” he says, expressing the need for this grading in order to encapsulate SA’s truly high-end and exclusive offerings.

“The premium grading is reserved for those products who exhibit impressive levels of luxury from product as well as a service perspective. It will only be awarded to a select few and will be seen as an aspirational product in South Africa".

The TGCSA has also introduced a new dimension to grading, which allows for properties to capitalize on niche market differentiation. To date 5 178 establishments are graded across the country, says TGCSA.

This new addition termed “accolades” includes insignia and criteria for niche markets. The new accolades are really what is exciting – niche markets tried to tap into and never had mechanism to allow that position.

In total there are 17 new accolades, says Erasmus, such as child-friendly, pet-friendly, wedding venues, spa and wellness facilities, adventure resorts and 4x4. 

Erasmus explains as an example, family-friendly properties would need to meet four to eight specific criteria in order to comply with the niche accolade.  

They would need to have family rooms, with inter-leading bedrooms, a safe and secure play area, an accredited nannies service, as well as offer at least one kiddies channel and a special children’s food menu. The final criteria would  be the need to have baby changing facilities of the public read.

As the accolades are centred on bringing South Africa’s unique tourism offerings to the fore, Erasmus says a wine-tourism accolade is an natural and obvious inclusion in the listings.

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This he says is reserved for products offered on operating wine farm, and as an establishment they must offer wine tasting activities on site as well as have a wine cellar on site, with off sales direct to the public.

Erasmus is especially excited about the possible impact of the responsible tourism accolade.

He admits that while this is one of the most onerous in criteria, he recognises that many of SA’s establishments are doing some of this in one form or another but not getting the necessary recognition for it.

As a result the TGCSA has taken the most basic requirements of The South African National Standards(SANS) 1162 for responsible tourism practices and they have introduced it into the TGCSA system to get more properties to be responsible.

While not all the criteria of the SANS 1162 practices are stipulated for the grading to be put into effect, Erasmus believes it essential to get the discussion of responsible tourism on the table and help its 5 200 properties to limit their impact on tourism.

The plan is for the requirement to grow and increase over time to include all 41 as included in SANS 1162 but for now they limited to about 16 – focusing on whether property has a responsible tourism policy in place whether they source locally, have a water and waste management and energy sorting and recycling systems in place. 

“The approved enhancements to the grading system create greater value for our members and will further aid the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa in upholding and improving the competitive positioning of South Africa as a quality destination,” says Erasmus.

The TGCSA owned platforms, including the website are being updated to include downloadable versions of the criteria. A full list of accolades will be available on the www.tourismgrading.co.za website in the coming weeks.  

Erasmus admits that while there is still a bit to do – the overall response to the changes have been positive, with this second phased running through March is specifically geared towards spending time with members across the country to make sure they are fully prepared for the changes.  

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