Meet Valley Lodge & Spa GM – Laurence McGrath

Magaliesburg is a major tourists attraction which offers a wide selection of tourism products with the Cradle of Humankind being the pillar since its a World Heritage Site. The spotlight falls on Laurence McGrath, the General Manager at Valley Lodge & Spa in Magaliesburg. Let’s find out how he thrives in the hotel industry.

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Briefly introduce yourself, your career background before your current position

Please find attached CV as per working life experience…have been in the hospitality industry for many years now and would never change it for anything else. Have managed hotels from spit and sawdust to mink and manure.

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

The hotel is incredible, a mixture of old and new world, established gardens, and African bush, two rivers running through the hotel property, the bird sanctuary, the Spa. But most of all the integrity of the owners…I have never come across such humble, direct and focused people as the couple that own this lodge.

Laurence McGrath, General Manager at Valley Lodge & Spa

Laurence McGrath, General Manager at Valley Lodge & Spa

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

Revenue increase, upgrading of the gardens and grounds, employment of a very professional management team, continuous improvements of standards and attractions; the building of a brand new staff canteen, plus the opening up the new safari boma in our private nature reserve.

Give us a breakdown of the offerings in your hotel?

What daily challenges do you face with your position?

Maintaining staff morale, one rule for one – one rule for all, the achievement of a rainbow nation – trying to create a utopia within the walls of Valley Lodge & Spa.

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

115 – 98%

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

  • Portia – Housekeeping – promoted from chambermaid to Supervisor
  • Alphie – Banqueting waiter to banqueting supervisor
  • Stabney – From Waiter to Jnr Asst F&B manager
  • Jonathan – From Head waiter to Assistant F&B Manager

How does Valley Lodge & Spa recruit new staff members?

From the community, we go through one of the community leaders and he in turn sources from the “good” families. Professional staff are recruited nationally via agents with a base of skill as the only criteria and not BEE status.

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

My team is very focused and friendly, we try to be as genuine as possible and do this job because we want to – not because we have to – this makes all the difference in the world. A “can do” attitude.

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

We have tackled an online marketing campaign by upgrading our website, whilst the magnificent PR agent that we use has made sure that we are consistently in online and print media. We are finding that some print publications are fast becoming a waste of resources.

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

Most fresh produce such as eggs, beverages, vegetables, flowers, chicken, cheese and yogurt.

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

Date of Event: 06 September 2013

Reason for Event: Valley Lodge & Spa donated R 30,000.00 worth of library books to Maloney’s Eye Primary School in Magaliesburg.

Why we donated: We chose this school as we had previously not donated anything to this school and selected it as our Community Service project due to many of our staff members’ children attending this educational institution.

The entire school with books – Robert Shabalala, our driver and respected community leader, pictured in the centre.

The entire school with books – Robert Shabalala, our driver and respected community leader, pictured in the centre.

How is your hotel impacting positively to the environment?

All hotel lighting has been changed to LED, all hot water boilers and geysers have been changed to heat exchangers, all air conditioning units have been upgraded to the latest technology so that the CF gasses are no longer an issue; all room under-floor heating has been turned off as all rooms now have ACs, so this reduced our foot print, however we have kept the bathroom under-floor heating on as this is a small sacrifice that we have to make for our guests’ convenience.

All our rooms are linked by fibre optic, when not in use we can turn them off, so no usage what-so-ever. Our sewerage system is green, with no chemicals used whatsoever. Our waste is also sorted and collected for recycling purposes. Our ladies’ sanitary issues are dealt with by a designated company for collection and disposal.

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

The team that I work with and the team that I work for; I derive joy from the success and happiness in other people’s lives.

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

A perfect hotel.

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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