Meet Palace Hotel GM – Warren Johansson

Today it’s my pleasure to chat with Warren Johansson who manages Palace Hotel (Durban), let’s find about more about is career path…

Durban is the default crowd puller in domestic tourism, mainly because of the sea and short travel distance compared to Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. It’s always a given that inland visitors hit the coast every time there are holidays. Cars pulling caravans on the N3 from Johannesburg and N2 from Mpumalanga towards Durban is normal sight on long weekends and annual holidays.

Briefly introduce yourself, your career background before your current position…

My name is Warren Johansson, I was born in Durban and educated in Gauteng, I have spent a large part of my career in the kitchen as an executive chef, I have been in hotel management for the past 8 years. My passion is in raising standards and increasing the value of services offered in any given property.

I spent some time working in the United Kingdom, as well as Botswana. This international experience has given me a good insight into the direction we need to go in South Africa in terms of tourism and service delivery.

Warren Johansson, General Manager at (Palace Resort and Spa

Warren Johansson, General Manager at (Palace Resort and Spa

What attracted you to Palace Hotel and how long have you been on the current position?

I was attracted to the Palace Resort and Spa by First Resorts’ decision to refurbish this old resort. The opportunity to take an old resort through its paces to eventually have it graded and competing in the highest level on the Marine Parade was too good not to get involved.

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

The Palace Resort and Spa has won a few accolades in the time that I have managed the property, such as; VOASA – Best refurbished property – RCI Hospitality of the year – Club Leisure Group Best teamwork and motivation.

The team have come a long way and with some hard work have created an amazing destination to visit.

Give us a breakdown of the offerings at Palace Hotel?

The Palace resort and Spa offers luxury full catering suites, overlooking the Indian Ocean, only a stone throw away from the beach. Amazing views and outstanding service. We have a Mediterranean style restaurant that boasts fantastic cuisine and friendly service.

The Palace also has an international standard spa, offering relaxing and revitalising treatments to our guests. Lastly we have a heated pool on the 5th floor for those who would simply like to relax and enjoy the sun.

What daily challenges do you face with your position?

The Palace team all see challenges as opportunities. We strive to ensure that all guests leave the property happy and content. The refurbishment process has thrown it fair share of opportunities our way, which we have embraced and put the challenge back to the guest to come back and experience the finished product in 2014.

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

I manage a staff complement of around 35 excluding the contracted staff (Prestige cleaning staff). 90% of these team members are from the local and surrounding community.

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

The Palace can boast many such success stories such as Mrs Xolile Gambushe who started in the company as a public area’s cleaner. She now heads up the front office at the Palace, is an amazing asset to the team and we are very proud of her growth and development.

Also we have Mr Meshack Gumbe who started with the company as a porter and is now the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager. Ms Sandra Le Roux who started with the Palace as a receptionist and has grown into a very competent Deputy General Manager.

How does the hotel recruit new staff members?

The company has a strict recruitment from within policy. We have an internal vacancy process that all vacancies get advertised to all resort within the group first. All candidates are interviewed within the company prior to us advertising externally. This process has proven very successful in growing team members into senior positions.

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

The team is groomed in terms of service delivery, are proud and confident in the property, hence the total commitment and enthusiasm to service delivery. We treat our guests like the royalty they are at the Palace.

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

We have had great success with online based marketing both nationally and internationally. We find the more we put out online, the more we get back. I am not sure if we have used any form of media that has not worked for us.

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

Approximately 80%.

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

We involve ourselves with local charities such as Open Door Crisis Centre and local church communities. We have sponsored bedding and blankets to these charities in the past.

How is your hotel impacting positively on the environment?

The Palace has been on a two-year going green campaign. We have successfully reduced carbon footprint by approximately 40%. This has been through power saving shower heads, installation of heat pumps, replacing all globes with energy savers and all down lighting has been converted to LED. Campaign will continue contributing to this invaluable project in years to come.

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

Pride of working with such an inspirational team and knowing that I have the privilege of managing one of the finest properties on the Marine Parade. Also knowing that the Palace will be graded in the near future, bringing her status in-line with the experience she delivers.

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

I would like my legacy to be about transformation. That of someone who’s love for the industry grew and assisted the Palace on its way into the future, by means of utilising the talents and commitments of the local community and staff.

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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