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Fedhasa salutes unsung heroes of hospitality sector at inaugural awards

Fedhasa salutes unsung heroes of hospitality sector at inaugural awards
Leader of the Year: Denise Stubbs, of Thokozani Wines, flanked (left) by Minister Patricia De Lille, and right, Brandon Mncube, Chief Marketing Officer at Mukuru. (Photo: Supplied)

Hospitality heroes, from front-of-house managers to executive housekeepers, were among the winners at the first Fedhasa Hospitality Awards, coinciding with the trade association’s 75th anniversary this year.

South Africans might not be the happiest, but we do have a reputation for being a friendly bunch, and it’s that warmth that sets our tourism and hospitality sectors apart from many parts of the world.

The hospitality sector plays a crucial role in supporting and enhancing a country’s tourism offering by providing guests with food, accommodation, entertainment and other services. Those who work in hospitality are seldom “seen”, never mind afforded much recognition, which is what the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) aimed to do with its first Fedhasa Hospitality Awards.

On Friday, the glam awards not only pulled a crowd but no fewer than two ministers – Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Mireille Wenger and Patricia de Lille, the Minister of Tourism – and two of Fedhasa’s chairs, Rosemary Anderson from the national office and Lee-Anne Singer, who heads the Western Cape board.

Held at the Century City Conference Centre, the inaugural awards also coincided with the trade association’s 75th anniversary celebration.

In welcoming De Lille, Anderson said: “I wish all our ministers were like our minister of tourism. She attends our industry events and she answers our phone calls and emails. She told us right at the beginning that she had an open-door policy. It makes a massive difference because it enables us to make the changes we need to make. You’re actually helping us, Minister.”

The awards, Anderson explained, were created to celebrate the incredible talent and dedication of hospitality professionals across southern Africa. “This year’s finalists and winners exemplify the passion, innovation and commitment that drives our industry forward, even in challenging times.”

De Lille described tourism and hospitality as powerful vehicles to showcase the country, which is heavily reliant on the sector for job creation. “The tourism and hospitality sector contributes 7.6% towards our GDP, so it’s vital to economic growth also.”

She said that in 2023, South Africa’s “rebound year” for tourism, the country welcomed more than 8.5 million visitors, and while there were many successes to celebrate, there were “some gaps” that required the industry to work harder. That could only be done through collaboration between the public and the private sectors, she acknowledged. 

“[The] government cannot do it alone. You can also not leave too much to the government because they’re going to mess it up.” And that’s no lie.

The 2024 leader of the year is Denise Stubbs of Thokozani Wines – an empowerment venture with Diemersfontein owners David and Sue Sonnenberg, helping farmworkers to become shareholders in the business. In 2021, Thokozani Staff Holdings, owned by 65 employees of Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate in Wellington, bought 55% shareholding in Diemersfontein Wines.

Besides wine, Diemersfontein is also involved in property development and hospitality, while Thokozani has its own wine brand and guest houses and manages the estate’s conference facilities.

The winner of the Executive Housekeeper of the Year award, Enara Muza, left teaching in 2008 to work in the hospitality industry. Her first job was as a runner in a restaurant. She now heads a team of 30 at the Silo Hotel.

“Stories like Muza’s demonstrate the boundless potential the hospitality sector holds, especially for South Africa’s youth,” De Lille said. “With its diverse range of roles and opportunities for advancement, the industry provides a pathway for passionate, driven individuals to build meaningful, rewarding careers.

The 2024 Fedhasa Hospitality Award winners are:

  • Culinary Excellence: Clinton Bonhomme, Durban International Convention Centre;
  • Executive Housekeeper of the Year: Enara Muza, Silo Hotel;
  • Facilities Manager of the Year: Jannie Roos, Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts;
  • Food and Beverage Manager of the Year: Anika de Jongh, Silo Hotel;
  • Front of House Manager of the Year: Deborah Naicker, Anew Hotel Hilton;
  • Hospitality Technology Provider: Profitroom (Leigh Myles);
  • Hotel General Manager of the Year: Chris Godenir, Peninsula All-Suite Hotel;
  • Leader of the Year: Denise Stubbs, Thokozani Wines;
  • Manager of the Year – Business Support: David Masawi-McCann, Silo Hotel;
  • Restaurant General Manager of the Year: Gabrielle Roland, Century City Conference Centre and Hotels;
  • Shared Prosperity: Shireen Onia and Michelle Page, ServiceGurus;
  • Sustainability: David Pollock, Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport; and
  • Young Professional of the Year: Kirsty Jamieson, Protea Hotel by Marriott Nelspruit

Fedhasa has also announced it is inducting new members into its Fedhasa Hall of Fame, recognising the contributions and lifetime achievements of hospitality industry stalwarts.

  • Arthur Gillis, Platinum Hospitality Holdings;
  • Clifford Ross, City Lodge Hotels; and
  • Nicky Fitzgerald, Angama.

Fedhasa’s Singer called on all members to nominate their exemplary employees for the 2025 hospitality awards. Nominations will open on Monday, 2 September 2024. DM

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