Eleven Platteland Hospitality Tips

moving to the platteland

By Julienne du Toit

Pix by Chris Marais

If you’re thinking of entering the often-tricky waters of the South African platteland hospitality trade, you should heed the following:

  • Don’t get into the tourism business if you’re not people-friendly;
  • “You must have a ‘servant heart’. If you don’t have it, your staff won’t have it either,” says Klaradyn Grobler of the Richmond Café and Rooms;
  • People are hooked on narrative. What is the story of your town, guesthouse or restaurant?
  • Make travel writers, photographers and bloggers welcome. They can help you;
  • Start small and don’t over-capitalise;
  • Put your own stamp on things. Create something special;
  • Pay attention to detail;
  • Get the basics right. Make sure the bed is comfortable, the lights work, the shower is decent and the toilet flushes;
  • Remember you are an ambassador for your town and region. Act accordingly and don’t bad-mouth others;
  • Sleep over in each bedroom of your guesthouse on a regular, rotational basis. It’s the best way to pick up on potential problems. This was one of the golden rules that the late Liz McGrath, a famous Western Cape hotelier, followed;
  • Be prepared to work hard.

“We came here to retire and open a little guesthouse,” most of our friends in hospitality tell us. “We have never been so busy in our lives!”

moving to the platteland
Hester and JP Steynberg of Ganora Guest Farm outside Nieu-Bethesda.

More Lessons from Ganora Guest Farm

Hester Joubert, born in Durban and schooled in the Graaff-Reinet district, trained and worked as a nurse before meeting and marrying JP Steynberg, a sheep farmer.

They now run one of the Karoo’s most popular farmstays – Ganora, just outside Nieu-Bethesda – and are generous with their advice for anyone considering the hospitality industry.

“You’ve got to be committed. Answer the phone. Reply to messages. Respond to emails. Be reliable.

“Be a tourist yourself. Travel and see what you like and don’t like.

“Decide if you are going to offer meals or operate on a self-catering basis. Bear in mind that catering is a lot of work. You can also offer braai packs to visitors. City people don’t want city food in the countryside. They want something from the region, maybe cooked in a traditional way.

“Modern travellers, especially foreign visitors, want interaction and not just a bed. There must be something for guests to do. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. You could even just take them out for a guided walk around your town or farm, or to see milking or sheep-shearing or fruit harvesting, or making jam or boerseep. Make the best of what you have.

Catering or self-catering?

“Location is important. Your guesthouse or farmstay must be in a special place, either convenient, or beautiful, or with some memorable feature. And it must be accessible.

“Never imitate others. Follow your own dreams and ideas. The more special your product, the more people will be interested. Think out of the box. Don’t let challenges put you off. Learn from your mistakes and let them make you stronger. Make time for your family. And if you can, get your family involved in your business, however small.

“Advertise your neighbour as passionately as you advertise yourself. Join marketing organisations that think positively and will help your business grow.

“No visitors drop in from the sky. They all come from somewhere and are going somewhere. Help plan a route for your guests. They’ll be interested to hear your tips and recommendations. Where do they go after you? Hold hands with other destinations.”promo 7 (1)-2

Finally (from JP), “It helps if you are a lav-a-trician. Expect your handyman skills to be put to the ultimate test. Often!”

  • This is an excerpt from Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit & Chris Marais. The Print Version is available HERE and the Ebook Version HERE.

2 thoughts on “Eleven Platteland Hospitality Tips

  1. Chris says:

    Chris & Julie — not be be a killjoy
    However ….
    In my experience many ( most towns ) appear to be oversubscribed as far as B&B / Guesthouses are concerned. I am not sure how many are ( as the only form of income ) actually successfully profitable ?
    Some of these have not been designed from the beginning as proper accommodation , being converted old houses / barns / sheds using what is available ( often not completely meant or fit for purpose )
    Perhaps this is a process of — “survival of the fittest” ?

    One wonders if the Tourism Grading council still works and if hospitality / accommodation inspectors still visit and take an interest ?

  2. Ash says:

    I see Chris wrote his comment back in 2018.

    Having been in the tourism business for nearly 6 years now, our farm has certainly benefitted immensely from having just 2 self catering units to suppliment our income. We did not convert anything as there wasn’t anything here besides the main house to begin with. I think it’s great that people are “re purposing” old buildings, sheds etc and turning them into something useful. Guests are always looking for something different – think horse stables, sheds, barns and old stone houses. They don’t want just another boring new brick house. I don’t think a town could be over subscribed with the number of BnB’s, rather it gives some healthy competition and owners need to do their best to entice guests to come to their place. Online reviews say a lot these days!

    In our area we have a local tourism group so we all meet every few months to discuss potential events, working in local communities and how to best work with each other. Whatsapp has also made it a lot easier for us to contact everyone to find available accommodation when at times you find most places are fully booked for weddings or other events.

    There is so much potential in our country for tourism to uplift so many lives, so here’s to hoping that we go from strength to strength!

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