MEET SUN CITY’S EVENTS POWER PAIR
Now that President Cyril Ramaphosa has opened the door to events once again, resorts such as Sun City are poised to play catch up in the sporting and entertainment spaces in the very near future.
The resort has a rich history of hosting some of the country’s most remarkable events, featuring the who’s who of local and international megastars in entertainment, business and sport. Behind these events are two women who are known as Sun city’s Power Pair – events operations manager Lihle Ngwane and
groups and events administration manager Cynthia Okuonghea.
This dynamic duo is tasked with making sure events are booked, staged and run on time, every time. It’s a massive job, but Lihle and Cynthia have the experience and expertise to ensure the department shines and sets a wonderful example to the industry at large.
“To be associated with this brand makes me feel motivated to develop myself more, professionally and personally,” Lihle says. “Sun International has worked hard to build a big name and a solid brand and we’re recognised internationally so our standards are very high.”
She has worked for the group since 2012 – first at The Maslow, Sandton, then at Sun City, Sibaya and now back at Sun City.
Lihle recalls: “When I started at Sun City in 2016, it took me a good three months just to learn my way around the resort – it’s indeed a city within a city. It can be extremely exciting when you’re working the big outdoor events, like the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and have to run in-between three different and very separate venues. It makes your mind operate on another level. The planning that goes into these events – and seeing an ordinary venue turning into this extravagant place – makes me incredibly proud of what we do. The events and conferencing space is forever evolving, with new trends and innovations, and you’re kept on your toes. I especially love all the vibe and the people interaction that comes with this type of business.”
Cynthia, on the other hand, is still a bit of a “new kid” in the department, having joined the team in December 2021.
“My role demands that I am super-customer-centric and I enjoy creating experiences and memories for (our clients). There’s something amazing about having people gathering at the resort and giving our customers the assurance that we’ll provide the best service while also anticipating the unexpected,” she says.
For both, Covid-19 has had a major impact.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from Covid it’s that nothing is permanent. We’ve seen its impact on our industry as a whole and most companies were forced to make very hard business decisions and jobs were lost. But, despite all of that, it’s forced us to shift our mind set and relook at how we do things, such as put Covid safety protocols in place, ensure that we secure as much business as possible and create more and more memorable experiences for our guests,” Lihle says.
Cynthia agrees that the pandemic has required the department to become more inventive at times. “Safety protocols have sometimes limited how and where we host our events and also how many people may attend in certain spaces. We are thankful that restrictions are easing up,” she says.
“One of the challenges we faced was managing multiple events at the same time and not having enough venues to accommodate this. As a result, we’ve had to focus on building a better rapport with our clients to understand what their needs are, which helps a lot. That way we can be more flexible by offering alternative dates and venues, depending on the restrictions if there are any. We’ve also had to be more creative in anticipating what client might need and quick to make decisions to accommodate that,” she continues.
Lihle adds that another challenge in the events space that was brought about by the pandemic is staffing. “During Covid, the company was forced to reduce the number of staff, but now that the business is picking up, we need to ensure we have enough staff to run events smoothly. What works for me at the moment is to assess the need for those particular critical positions and motivate for them to be filled, while in the interim using outsourced labour to keep the business going and ensuring that we keep our brand promise to our clients.”