Martine Naber laid the roots for a long-standing relationship with South Africa as she finalised her thesis in Retail Marketing with Sales House in 1996 in Johannesburg. She subsequently spent the majority of her career in Royal Dutch Shell as Human Resources Manager. She was based in Cape Town in 2014 and 2015. From January 2017 she got involved in the start-up of theLAB, working with entrepreneur Jos Balk, developing a Home Automation system. This home-made system, that operates on voice recognition, was subsequently implemented in 3 very modern guesthouses based in Franschhoek, Robertson and Hout Bay. The extensive renovations resulted in beautiful eco-conscious and solar powered guesthouses with 21 rooms. Martine is the General Manager of these 3 guesthouses and she is currently focusing on market introduction of this unique product.
Memoirs of a Corporate Traveller
I can still remember the first time I booked into a guest house on company business. All bright eyed and bushy-tailed, the mini kettle, sachets of instant coffee and long-life milk pods got me all excited. Trying to take a decent shower in the minute cubicle, hunting down a power outlet to charge my phone and figuring out where to turn on the bedside lamp only spelled adventure! I remember looking forward to the next morning’s buffet-breakfast with all the other conference delegates trying to flag down a uniformed server for hot milk for my coffee.
Why were my more seasoned colleagues complaining about not being home, lacking amenities and uncomfortable matresses?, I wondered.
I would love to reclaim the innocence of an inexperienced traveller, but alas, with more than a few away trips under my belt, I have come to expect excellence.
After a long journey, most travellers appreciate a personal welcome – someone to make them feel comfortable and to create the feeling of a “home away from home”. First impressions are lasting and having a dedicated host to show guests around sets the stage for a pleasurable stay. Your host should always remember that while the surroundings are familiar to them, they are brand new to the guest – a little hand-holding may be necessary to make guests truly feel welcome.
Your Room Talks Back
The bar has been raised in terms of what guests expect from accommodation in 2019, due to the 24/7 access they have to the fairly powerful computer that is their smartphone; and their even more powerful personal computer.
Making instant coffee from a sachet and a mini-kettle is only fun after your third near second-degree burn. Discerning guests expect to interact with smart rooms using commands such as “Blinds up! Make me a coffee! Shower on! Lights off!”. A hotel voice assistant, facial recognition and gesture-control applications can add tremendously to the convenience and fun of an overnight stay. A proper high-speed internet connection and sufficient charging points for mobile equipment is also a must.
Accommodation that Enhances Your Mood
Imagine, without lifting anything other than your voice, being able to switch the light to a more comfortable setting, choose your favourite track and have a decent cup of coffee made while gazing at a beautiful sunset through your voice-activated open blinds! This is the future and I want to be there.
Spoil Yourself with an Eco-Jacuzzi…
For a host who is truly dedicated to the comfort of his or her guests, offering great amenities is one of the best ways to ensure return businesss. Access to massages and other spa treatments, cool and warm swimming pools and eco-jacuzzis are only some of the amenities that can contribute to a memorable stay.
Other add-ons – such as having a restaurant on premises or an in-house cook who can serve up uniquely delightful meals, plus a well-stocked bar offering beer on tap, or wine from a keg or wine rack – will get my vote when choosing accommodation.
Catering for the fitness-conscious crowd, gym facilities or outrides on bikes or hikes will certainly hit the spot.
Microsoft Touch Screens are All the Rage
A conference is a conference is a conference. This is a line that no conference organiser wants to hear – ever. To set your conference experience apart from all the others, you have to carefully select your venue.
Facilities offering handy devices, such as a smart whiteboard or other highly intuitive and interactive tools that allow seamless connection via your smartphone so you can share your work with off-site colleagues, may make all the difference. Access to Microsoft Surface HUB as well as smooth connectivity between devices and platforms facilitate a better end result and ensures the snag-free transfer of information. Presenters can focus on getting their message across rather than fumbling with equipment that hinders instead of helps.
Taking care of the non-technical needs of delegates is another important element in a memorable conference experience. Going the extra mile to facilitate the various bespoke requirements of your group will make sure guests have the best experience .
Not all guest house locations are created equal. So if you have to stay over for a conference or other business-related occasion, choosing a spot where your surroundings contribute to the experience is key. For conference-goers, being able to look forward to exploring the area after-hours is a bonus. Focus on what is unique to the area – whether it is access to trendy restaurants, wine-tasting at charming vineyards or enjoying nature on a mountain bike.
There is a certain unspoken bond between people who share the same value system. If you are a responsible corporate citizen, it is a no-brainer to choose accommodation and conferencing facilities where your host shares your values. Using solar power, recycling/limiting waste and using eco-friendly products on site are elements to look out for when making your decision. If your chosen guesthouse cultivates its own, fresh, in-season vegetables, it is a sure sign that you’re off to a good start.
Like Einstein used to say: Nothing is as unashamedly good as a labrador. Look into a lab’s eyes and you won’t see even the remotest hint of malice. Unadulterated goodness is all you’ll find. Labs are some of the purest souls gracing our planet. The essence of labrador wholesomeness should be bottled and administered as chronic medication – it would make the world a better place.
In the hospitality industry, we could learn a lot from the lab’s infectious happiness and good-natured kindness. What weary executive, having to attend yet another conference in yet another city away from home, wouldn’t want to come home to the loving and enthusiastic welcome of a labrador?