Wayne Smith is the new general manager of Durban’s Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani complex. He has taken the reigns from Samantha Croft, the current Tsogo Sun’s Director of Operations, KZN hotels. The father of two relocated to Durban after working as the hotel general manager at Holiday Inn Sandton. Wayne will celebrate his 20th anniversary in the industry this year. He speaks to Clinton Moodley about his new title, his travels and hotel guests:
How does it feel being the new general manager for Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani? I am excited. It is an honour as it is one of the largest hotels in the Tsogo Sun group. It’s a landmark for Durban, and I am looking forward to being part of this new chapter and the challenges that come with it.
How did you get into the profession? I have always been fascinated with the hotel sector. I studied hotel keeping and catering while at a technical school in Johannesburg and fell in love with the profession. I was working at a pub and dinner while at school and happen to meet someone who worked in the hospitality industry. He managed to get me a job as a switchboard operator at the Drakensberg Sun when I was 18 years old. I have been in the industry ever since.
What are the plans for the hotel? I want to remind everyone that we are one of the best hotels in the country. The hotel has been around for decades, and there is a reason why it has survived for so long. I also want to be apart of pushing Durban as a destination and debunk the myth of the city being a place of crime and grime.
What is a typical day for Wayne Smith? I am in the office by 7 am and start my day with a good cup of coffee. I look at the reports from the night before and have a chat with the team about the day ahead. The rest of the day is spent interacting with guests and the team to see if everything is going smoothly. The day tends to disappear quickly, so I try to do everything I can.
What is your greatest achievement? I know this sounds cliché, but it will have to be my new position as general manager for Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Cape Town is a magnificent place to holiday. There’s so much to see and do.
Where is the next destination you want to visit? I want to visit India. I have heard so much about their cultural landmarks and spiritual places.
What is the one item you cannot live without? My iPhone. The phone has a fantastic camera that captures some cool images.
How do you unwind after a long day? I enjoy a glass of wine while I hear my children share stories of their day.
What is your advice for people who want to get into the tourism industry? Be willing and keen. With the right attitude, you will go far.
How can people be better hotel guests? Start by being polite. A simple smile can change your mood and put the staff at ease.
What are some of the strangest items that guests stole? People are creative and will find ways to take home items from the hotel. Some people have stolen television sets, bathrobes, throws and even towels.