2014 Business Traveller Africa Awards

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2014 Business Traveller Africa Awards

The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg played host to the third annual Business Traveller Africa Awards on the 2nd of September, with a gathering of 200 South African business travel industry players on hand to enjoy a stimulating morning and congratulate the winners in each of the 20 awards categories.

The Business Traveller Africa Awards has evolved into so much more than just an awards ceremony, with the 2014 event – in association with Gautrain – presenting delegates with a morning packed full of relevant content, networking opportunities, and the chance to see first-hand which brands or entities would be rewarded for a successful 12 months.

Another area in which the Business Traveller Africa Awards has grown is in the number of corporate partners willing to invest in the event, and Gautrain was joined by Bidvest Bank, Carlson Rezidor, ExecuJet, Travelport (corporate partners), Air Mauritius, Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, Hotel Verde, HRG Rennies Travel, and Preferred Hotel Group (display partners), in making the 2014 version of the event happen.

The morning was opened by MC and Business Traveller Africa magazine consulting editor Jeremy Maggs, before delegates enjoyed a sumptuous hot breakfast courtesy of the team under Maslow Hotel GM Johan Scheepers.

What followed was three hours of quality content, kicked off by an exclusive recorded video interview with South Africa’s new Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom. He was in discussion with Maggs, who grilled him on a number of issues, including the hot topic of the moment – the changes to South Africa’s immigration regulations.

This segued nicely into the morning’s first panel discussion, which was preceded by a keynote speech delivered by Simon Newton-Smith, Virgin Atlantic’s head of Middle East and Africa and Chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA). He laid the groundwork for the discussion, which was to look specifically at the industry implications of the changes to South Africa’s immigration regulations, with a focus on two key elements – the need for travelling minors to carry an unabridged birth certificate, and the in-person collection of biometric visa data for people travelling to South Africa.

Very bluntly, Newton-Smith asked the audience if any of their companies could afford a 20% drop in business, which he believes the industry should prepare for, if these immigration regulation changes go ahead. This laid the platform for a thoroughly interesting panel discussion involving Newton-Smith, ASATA CEO Otto de Vries, and SATSA CEO David Frost, facilitated by Business Traveller Africa Editor Dylan Rogers. All three agreed that the changes had the potential to severely damage South Africa as a tourist destination, and warned the audience that tough times lay ahead, unless the industry could convince Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to re-look the changes and the time frames in question.

A networking tea and coffee break was followed swiftly by Rodger Foster’s keynote address on the state of South African aviation. The CEO and MD of Airlink was brutal in his assessment of the current operating climate and pulled no punches, giving his view on where the industry currently is, in his opinion. This provided an excellent starting point for the next panel discussion involving Foster, Edward Frost (BA Commercial Manager Southern and East Africa), Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, and ExecuJet Director of Flight Operations Mike Clark. With such a diverse panel, the discussion was lively, looking at all areas of the South African aviation industry, including how to go about surviving and prospering in a difficult climate.

The final keynote address was delivered by Paul Ansah, Vice-President of International Hotel Development for Marriott, who jetted in and detailed the background behind the biggest South African hospitality news of the year – Marriott’s acquisition of Protea Hotels. Ansah then joined

Ian Jones, Group Director of Operations at Extrabold, Andrew McLachlan, Carlson Rezidor’s Vice-President Business Development for Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, and Clive Bennett, MD of the One&Only Cape Town, for a discussion about the state of South African hospitality.

Once this discussion wrapped up, it was time to announce the winners in the 2014 Business Traveller Africa Awards.

SAA picked up the top award in two categories – ‘Best African Regional Short-Haul Airline’ and ‘Best African Long-Haul Airline’, whilst it lost out in the ‘Best Business Class’ category to Middle Eastern airline Emirates, which also picked up the ‘Best International Long-Haul Airline’ prize.

In the main hotel category, the ‘Best Hotel Group’ award went the way of Tsogo Sun, as it did in 2013, ahead of fellow nominees City Lodge, Legacy Hotels & Resorts, Protea Hotels, and Sun International.

Another repeat winner was HRG Rennies Travel, which edged out American Express Travel Services, BCD Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and Harvey World Travel in the ‘Best Travel Management Company’ category.

Avis also successfully defended its ‘Best Car Rental Company’ title, holding off the challenge of Budget Rent a Car, Europcar, Hertz and Tempest.

This year saw four new categories being contested – ‘Best Global Distribution System’, ‘Best International Hotel Group’, ‘Best Small Conference Venue’, and ‘Best Travel Credit Card Provider’ – with Travelport, Hilton, the Maslow Hotel, and Visa the inaugural winners in these categories, respectively.

As in 2012 and 2013, the Business Traveller Africa Awards also handed out the ‘Business Travel Personality of the Year’, which in 2012 went to outgoing Avis CEO and OUTA Chairman Wayne Duvenage, and in 2013 was awarded to Comair CEO Erik Venter. The 2014 recipient is the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) CEO Otto de Vries, for the work he has done in challenging the recent changes to South Africa’s immigration regulations on behalf of his members and the broader industry.