Hotel General Manager – Sunet Pringle (The Saint James on Venice Hotel)

My belief is that for a school to perform at its optimal, it requires a dedicated principal to steer the ship in the right direction. Resources and the rest are just an added bonus. A poor performing school reflects the kind of principal at the helm.

Now in the tourism industry we have hotels that are the pillar of hospitality, everything else is just a compliment to hotels. For these hotels to function at their best, a hotel general manager is tasked with role of ensuring all departments properly execute their duties to attract paying guests.

It’s not often that when you book into a hotel you come across the hotel manager, until you encounter problems which the immediate staff cannot resolve and you demand the general manager to address you.

Today I’m happy to introduce a weekly series where I’ll be featuring a hotel general manager to share with us their career journey. To kickstart this feature I’m previlaged to have Sunet Pringle from The Saint James on Venice Hotel in Durban…enjoy the insider information below:

  • If you’re a hotel general manager and would like to be featured, please click here.

Briefly introduce yourself, your career background before your current position

Sunet Pringle studied at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Granger Bay Hotel School). I had the pleasure of working in some of Cape Town’s best 5 star hotels including the Mount Nelson and Cape Grace, before moving to Durban to become the General Manager of The Saint James on Venice Hotel.

What attracted you to this hotel and how long have you been on the current position?

I was very excited to start a project from scratch. The hotel was previously a beautiful old house that was converted to a hotel. The thought of putting systems in place, working on site, recruiting and training staff, appealed to me. I have been here since March 2010, the hotel opened for business in June 2010.

 Sunet Pringle, General Manager of The Saint James on Venice Hotel

Sunet Pringle, General Manager of The Saint James on Venice Hotel

What have been your proud achievements since taking over your current position?

Definitely seeing how our occupancy has increased month to month, year to year and I can definitely say it is due to hard work and word of mouth, people are returning which means we are doing something right!

Give us a breakdown of the offerings in your hotel?

Hotel has 15 rooms, a conference room and a restaurant. Restaurant is popular amongst locals as well. We serve ‘high tea’ (afternoon tea) that has made us famous in the area.

What daily challenges do you face with your position?

The biggest challenge is certainly trying to keep standards the same every day, people expect the same, high service delivery every time they come. It is also a very tough industry as there are big name hotels out there doing a lot of marketing and sales, we have to try our best to be seen and heard.

What is the overall staff compliment under your supervision and what percentage of that is recruited from local community?

We are a very small team of 13 people. All of them are from Durban, except 2.

Do you have an example to share where your hotel has groomed a staff member from entry position to climb the career ladder?

Isabel started as a sculler. She is now being trained as chef, currently she is fulfilling the role of a commis chef. We hope to send her on an official training course in the new year (2014).

How does the hotel recruit new staff members?

Mostly on various free websites, contacts in the industry and when necessary through a recruitment agent.

How do you ensure you turn once-off hotel guests into repeat clients?

We believe in offering personalized service, remembering small things, making them feel at home.

What marketing strategies have proven profitable for your hotel and which ones have been a waste of resources?

There are so many out there! We find online marketing useful as this seems to be the way that things are heading now in terms of marketing and advertising.

What percentage of your budget is spent sourcing goods and services from within your locality?

All of the food and beverage is sourced locally.

Is your hotel involved in any community upliftment projects…if so, please share details?

Yes, we support a charity called The Domino Foundation. It is a home for abandoned babies waiting to be adopted. We supply them with food and other essentials. Please visit them on www.domino.org.za if you would like  to support them.

How is your hotel impacting positively to the environment?

We recycle. We give food away to street children before it goes off but not good enough to serve to paying guest. We are in the process of looking at getting water tanks installed so that our garden will be irrigated by means of this tank. We are also in the process of assessing whether it is viable to get solar panels.

What inspires you to wake up each morning ready to positively contribute in your hotel?

I enjoy working with my staff. They all want to achieve something one day and it is nice to see them work hard toward the shared goal; making our guests return.

What legacy do you aim to leave in your current position?

I like to lead by example so if my staff remember me for something then I hope it is that they see I work just as hard as they do. They don’t often see what it takes to run such an operation but I think my passion for this industry is transparent and hopefully it rubs off on them.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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