A good travel professional is inspirational, resilient and passionate. He or she is a natural problem solver, quick thinking and creative.
I know this because, throughout my years in the travel industry, I have met a lot of them.
At the top of each hotel, running it from day to day sits the General Manager. The person who knows the hotel inside out - from laundry and housekeeping to florists, services, maintenance and accounts, the General Manager is across all of it.
These absolute all-rounders know the guests, greet repeat guests like old friends and are aware of their particular preferences. They personally check that rooms are ready, know who will be checking in daily and pay special attention to VIPs who may have specific requirements. They know what maintenance is required, set the high standards of their hotel and care for the wellness of their staff. They also come up with incredible ideas for guest experiences, and support and engage with the local community.
So to honour these shining stars of the travel industry, I would like to celebrate and share some of the incredible stories of a few of my General Manager friends, starting with my good friend, Karl Langdon from South Africa. Over the years, Karl and I have worked with each other on events, exhibitions, and sales trips and my husband and I have been lucky enough to visit "his" game lodge and experience his and his wife's hospitality.
Karl Langdon, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Wild at Heart – Heart of Gold!
Karl lives in Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a natural habitat for the Big 5 (and more). He is a wildlife and conservation enthusiast and all-round legend!
Karl began his career at Ulusaba as Head Ranger when it was first opened as Sir Richard Branson’s Private Game Reserve. However, he has been General Manager there for as long as I have known him, so approaching fifteen years.
Why is Karl a legend? Well apart from being awesome at his job, he genuinely cares for the people around him. When a staff member contracted HIV and then sadly later died, he started Pride ’n Purpose, a charitable organisation to help her orphaned children live a better life and personally helped to build them a house.
To this day Pride ’n Purpose is responsible for providing 5,000 people with access to clean, safe, water and 3,000 people with sustainable food. They have educated 3,000 people via thirteen pre-schools, three literacy centres and training courses for teachers, as well as a world class Digital Learning Centre. They’ve supported a number of entrepreneurs, including the very successful Ku Humelela Hub and nearly one hundred orphaned or vulnerable children – which is just incredible.
But that’s not all. Karl and a friend also walked the length of Africa to raise money for vaccinations and awareness of polio throughout Africa. Yes! You read that right, he WALKED from the Southern-most tip of Africa, starting in Cape Town and attempted to walk to the Northern-most tip – Cairo, in Egypt. They were pulled out of the walk, having completed around 20 000 kilometres over a 22month period, due to the Wars in the horn of Africa around Eritrea at the time, with both countries’ governments deeming it too dangerous to walk through the war-zone.
And, while walking through the African bush as part of his day to day job, he encounters lion and numerous other dangerous wildlife. But being the expert ranger he is, Karl knows exactly how to read their behaviour and how to safely get out of a situation. As you can imagine, he has many a story to tell. I have nothing but admiration for this man!
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