This Tourism Week

Insuring your guest house or B&B: The two most important things you need to know
Tourism and the tour guide: where are we going?
Scatalog: A plopping useful little book

Insuring your guest house or B&B: The two most important things you need to know

“I own a guesthouse (or a B&B). What should I look for when buying insurance for my business?”

It’s probably the question insurance brokers hear most often – and there are two simple, but equally important answers:

1. What the policy covers
No other business in the country is quite the same as a guest house or B&B – so an ordinary commercial policy won’t work for you. But then neither will a personal policy. Not by a long shot.

The answer, of course, is to look for a policy that’s been designed in conjunction with the guesthouse industry – not simply one that claims to have been designed for the industry, but one in which guesthouse and B&B owners have played an integral part in the design of the cover.

This will mean that everything that’s included in the policy will have been put there at the request of the industry. That every change made to the policy is made as a result of changes to the business environment in which the industry has to operate. And that extensions that some insurers might laugh off as smoke-and-mirrors are included because the guesthouse industry has asked for them.

In fact only one insurer in South Africa meets these criteria: BnB SURE.

“Our policy has been created by B&B and guesthouse owners for B&Bs and guesthouses,” said the company’s director, Dave Jack. “We don’t believe that one-size-fits-all.”

This is unique in an industry notorious for telling the public: “This is what you need. We have decided” – and that then loads your premiums when you ask for anything beyond the standard cover (like when guesthouses need to insure themselves for specific risks).

Unlike other, more generalised policies, BnB SURE’s product has all the cover the industry has asked for – and it continues to provide updated cover, too. One of the latest examples: cover for loss of revenue following infestations by bees, wasps or hornets – and that includes the cost of removing the swarm. Sound silly? It’s not – not if a guesthouse owner has asked for it.

2. What the policy excludes

In insurance, exclusions are just as important as cover. There’s no point in buying a policy that contains exclusions or even conditions which you simply cannot meet. You could be asked to provide a guarantee that your alarm will be activated every night, even though guests are coming and going. You could be required to compel guests to lock their jewellery in a safe when they’re not wearing it (but what if you don’t have a safe?). Or you might have to compel every guest to sign a disclaimer – failing which there’ll be no liability cover (bearing in mind that disclaimers have to comply with the Consumer Protection Act, which states that they have to be written in plain, understandable language. But whose plain, understandable language? Yours? The guest’s? The courts?). And so it goes – on and on.

The old saying that ‘goedkoop is duurkoop’ is true, you see. You get what you pay for. And if you choose a cheap policy – as any economist will confirm – it’s simply not possible to pay a little and get a lot.

So get the right thing.

Ask your broker for more information about BnB SURE (and if you haven’t got a broker, you can find one on the company’s free Brokerfinder site).

Tourism and the tour guide: where are we going?

In the next few days, according to my sources, members of one of our more important guiding associations will be going into a strategy planning session where they’ll ask themselves where they’re supposed to be going.

And, seeing as how they were kind enough to ask – here’s my potjie’s worth:

At the beginning of this week, our friends over at Tourism Update published a letter from Danny Bryer, the director of sales, marketing and revenue for the Protea Hospitality Group, under the heading ‘Beware industry doom mongers.’

“Trading conditions have been tough and we all know why,” he wrote.

But: “The reality now is that demand is increasing; the total number of rooms sold in the past two months is up by 5% year on year and that’s extremely important because there are more rooms available since the time of the World Cup. But our rates are still approximately 3% lower.”

And: “The period ahead has the potential to be positive and rewarding. Demand is strengthening and forward bookings are looking stronger. And if the Rand stays in its current range, that should also translate into improved inbound business.”

And: “Our ability to reap this good fortune, though, is dependent on our action as an industry to assert the value of the products we offer. Failure to do so is just that. Failure.”

All of which goes nicely with the letter which appeared in today’s edition of the same publication. In ‘Back to the high road or low road for SA’s hotels’, Duncan Bramwell, MD of Revenue Performance, wrote: “Danny’s comments are true but we won’t drive ADR (Average Daily Rate) and win market share unless we are razor sharp at the coal face. We have some work to do yet!”

And how does this relate to guiding?

Well, I believe those figures (they’re a lot more convincing than anything coming out of the party political line), and this give me cause for hope. Tourism can recover, and it will, and it is recovering.

So the tourist guide needs to be ready.

But more importantly, I agree with Mr. Bramwell: our guides need to be “razor sharp at the coal face. We have some work to do yet!”

It may sound trite, and it may have been over-stated, but you cannot argue with the old truism that the guide can make or break the visitor’s experience.

But when you get together with product owners, you still hear about guides soliciting unwarranted commissions (and I saw it myself in my days on the road); when you hear about bored guides rushing their bewildered charges through sites like Robben Island or bluntly ignoring questions they’ve judged as ‘dumb’; and when you hear all the other horror stories – you have to ask what lies beneath.

The answer, I think, is in the ethics.

Yes, I know that guides are legally required to sign a Code of Conduct and Ethics, but I wonder how many of them forget about it as soon as they’ve signed it?

And it goes beyond that. Besides the very real need to bring ethical values into their personal behaviour, I believe that tourist guides have an enormous duty when it comes to responsible tourism – exactly because they are the people at the coal face.

If you don’t know about responsible tourism, perhaps you might begin by studying the UNWTO’s Global Code Of Ethics For Tourism (download in pdf format here) – or, for a quicker introduction, by reading what Rough Guide has to say about the subject here.

Come to think of it, I attended the Responsible Tourism in Cities Conference at last year’s Indaba (I wrote about it here), and I don’t remember seeing single tourist guide badge… Oh wait. Good Paul Miedema of Calabash Tours was there – but as much as I admire his company and the work it does, I can’t help thinking that many people in the industry still think of Calabash as a company on the fringe. And yet it applies all the principles of ethical tourism – and there’s plenty of research to show that a large and growing numbers of travellers want their tourism to be just that: responsible and ethical.

And therein lies the rub: tourism is moving towards a more ethical, more human paradigm – and our tour guides should be leading the way.

(For more about Calabash, go to and search ‘Calabash’ or ‘Paul Miedema’.)

Scatalog: A plopping useful little book

I had to laugh when this book dropped out of the parcel that landed on my desk the other day.

‘Scatalog: a Quick ID Guide to Southern African animal droppings’ – now why didn’t I think of that?

Slightly smaller than DL-sized, and just 40 pages long – and full of it – this must be one of the most useful field guides I’ve seen in a long, long time. Because you do – you see a lot more poop than animals in the bush.

The Scatalog (by Kevin Murray and published by Random House Struik) will help you identify the scats of about 100 species – the most common mammals of the region, some reptiles, and even a few of the larger birds – and it contains a short but fascinating guide to what you can learn from animal droppings.

It’ll definitely be in my pack next time I head on out. And it should be in your guest library, too.

Buy it at the BarefootBookshop.

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