As CEO of FEDHASA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa has an incredibly important role in advocating and lobbying on behalf of the hospitality industry. Luckily, he’s passionate about the hospitality sector and tourism, having started his career as a travel consultant before moving overseas to specialise in travel and tourism marketing. Here, he discusses the differences between South Africa and other countries he’s worked in, FEDHASA’s focuses for the year ahead, and his trend predictions for the industry.

What is your story?

I have been working in the industry for the past 16-years. I started my career as a travel consultant, and moved to Los Angeles to work for a marketing company specializing in Travel and Tourism, thereafter I moved to New York where I worked for South African Tourism. Later, I returned home and worked for various companies including the South African Revenue Services (SARS) until I was appointed to serve as the CEO of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA). I am passionate about the hospitality sector and the tourism industry. I hold a degree in Marketing Communication and Tourism Management.

Explain who you are to the industry in a couple of sentences

I advocate and lobby on behalf of FEDHASA members and industry at large on issues affecting the hospitality sector. This includes contributing to any legislation that affects the sector, shaping programmes that will contribute positively to the sector, and working with government to ensure regulations are meaningful and adhered to.

If you have worked in countries other than SA, how is the South African hospitality industry different from those in different countries that you’ve worked in?

The SA hospitality is leading the way when compared to many countries that I have visited or worked in. We have a very passionate industry that embraces customer service. Over the past few years we have implemented new technology systems within the sector, as well as innovative ideas to improve the industry and remain competitive.

What are some of the overall issues that you’ve seen affect the hospitality industry in SA?

The industry is mainly affected by various regulations that are introduced or changed frequently. These regulations come from all three spheres of government and it’s often cumbersome to keep track of all these changes. We are also affected by so-called ‘disruptive technologies’ that choose to play in our market. We support technology completely, as long as it plays by the same rules that govern the industry.

What are some of the challenges that FEDHASA is facing at the moment and how are you addressing these challenges?

We are facing various challenges including: the Liquor Policy and Licensing, water shortages in some areas, electricity prices, and various other legislations. We have various programmes in place to deal with some of these challenges, and our members work hard to find solutions to some of them. Other challenges are dealt with by lobbying government to consider the industry view on regulatory matters.

What are some of FEDHASA’s focuses at the moment and going into the New Year?

  • Lobbying government to regulate Airbnb
  • Advocating provincial government to speed-up issuing liquor licenses
  • Contributing to the development of tourism in South Africa by participating in various programmes
  • Focusing on ensuring our members practice sustainable hospitality
  • Advocating for transformation and skills development within the sector

How do you see FEDHASA fitting into the South African hospitality industry?

FEDHASA has been a part of hospitality industry since 1949; we have been instrumental in building the industry. And we will continue to positively contribute to the growth of the industry.

Where do you think its place and brand is, and what makes the company unique in SA?

FEDHASA has managed to build a strong brand and reputation and we have seen growth over the past few years in membership. We are recognised by various entities including government as the most important voice for the hospitality sector and that’s what makes us unique.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa’s Pop Quiz

How do you engage your brand to the local SA market? Any engaging media initiatives and marketing campaigns that you run?

We run various initiatives aimed at adding value to our members in South Africa. We also run various marketing campaigns to drive membership growth and to communicate value proposition.

What are the company goals for future excellence in the local industry

  • Growing an inclusive and sustainable hospitality and tourism industry
  • Creating employment for our people
  • Advocating and influencing policies affecting the sector
  • Advocating for service excellence in the sector
  • Representing the stakeholders’ interest in all relevant platforms

Let’s talk Sustainability and the steps you have taken to make a difference here?

We have a programme called Imvelo, it focuses on promoting sustainable tourism in the sector. This includes using water and electricity responsibly, waste management, and Food Safety. We are looking at relaunching and reviving the Imvelo programme, and it will be followed by awarding those who have done well in these categories.

How do you incentivise and motivate staff as an organisation?

We encourage staff empowerment, recognise excellence and provide financial incentives to motivate staff to do better. We encourage our staff to lead by example and believe in proper, open communication.

Trend Prediction for the local industry?

  • Hotels will use more technology to connect with millennials
  • In rooms technology will support customer gargets
  • Hotels will connect with other local trendy places like art galleries
  • More specialized restaurants with creative chefs will emerge
  • Sustainable practices will continue to grow

If you were going to teach a college course, what course would you teach? 

Marketing and Strategic Management

Which leader or leaders do you look up to and why? 

I really don’t look up to a specific leader, I read a lot of politics and economics and I pick what I believe makes sense and can be applied from various leaders.

What is one truth you believe in that most people disagree with you on? 

I believe that we don’t have a shortage of skills in South Africa, instead, we have no jobs for people to practice what they know or have studied.

 What’s one assumption people make about you that is dead wrong?

People think I don’t get my hands dirty (literally) I am an avid gardener and I also build houses (certified builder).

Who is your mentor/s and what recent challenge/s have you sought their advice for?

I have few people that I seek advice from on various matters. I seek advice on industry challenges. I am a very private person and rarely share personal challenges with anyone other than my wife.

Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough business decision that supported your company’s purpose, but may have had a negative, short-term financial impact.

It is always tough to make difficult decisions, but it comes with my responsibility as CEO of FEDHASA. I have make various decisions with the long-term effect in mind, and I’ve have had to sacrifice the wellbeing of staff, which is never easy.

If you could go back and give your 21-year old self a valuable piece of advice, what would you say? 

I would say: travel more, live more, and take more interest in people – build lasting friendships.

As you think about your career, who is a team member you had a huge impact on and what are they doing today as a result of your leadership?

There are many. Some have become entrepreneurs; others have changed their career paths completely, while there are a few who have gained confidence to move to higher positions within their respective industries. I have had the privilege of managing over 50 people in my short career.

If you could work on solving any problem in the world, what one problem would it be? 

Children must be afforded an opportunity to be kids. They must always have food to eat and toys to play with. It breaks my heart when I see hungry children.

What is your leadership philosophy? 

I believe in listening, engaging and participating. I’m very results-driven and don’t hesitate to take action if needed in the interest of the organization.

What specific mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual activities do you engage in to keep yourself operating at your optimum level? 

  • Regular exercise
  • Time to reflect and think
  • Forgive myself and others
  • Spend quality time with my family

What are you learning right now?

I read a lot of politics and economic news and books.

Favourite Inspirational Business quote

“Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try”

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