MEET THE WILD COAST SUN GM
“Hospitality offers me a job that changes me all the time. It is a fast-paced environment where I am doing varied tasks each day. I am on my feet and moving around a lot which helps me think, feel, and react better – and I am not stuck in a cubicle all day,” says Peter Tshidi, general manager of Wild Coast Sun.
If you were anywhere else but in South Africa, you’d find it hard to believe that a man who started out as a luggage porter at The Palace of The Lost City (Sun City) in 1997 now heads up Sun International’s only beachfront resort and its second oldest property in South Africa.
Driven and dynamic, Peter cannot imagine anything other than hospitality as a career.
“From a young age, I wanted to travel and see the world. Hospitality became the best way to fund my travels and extend my qualifications in the industry. It helps grow you as a person,” he explains.
Born in Ga-Rankuwa, Pretoria, he studied Hotel and Tourism Management with Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s national tourism authority based in Galway.
During his 25 years in the hospitality industry, he has gained a wealth of experience in local and international hotel operations, retail, operations management and casino operations, both with Sun International and elsewhere.
“During my career, I’ve done many other managerial short courses and management classes on a wide range of topics and skills within the industry. But what I found most memorable was gaining personal knowledge by talking to the people I met during these classes. I am still learning today by engaging with people from all walks of life.”
He also believes that, pandemic aside, hospitality remains a good career choice for the very many young South Africans who would like to build careers for themselves.
“There are many and varied job roles available in hospitality. Waiters and chefs often come to mind when one mentions a career in hospitality. In truth, the hospitality industry is one of the largest sectors in the modern world, with enough variety in job roles for any kind of person, from the creative person to the corporate-minded.”
He adds that a number of downstream jobs are created through tourism and travel with the industry needing everything from lawyers to health and safety professionals, environmentalists, accountants, IT gurus and interior designers.
“Young South Africans view hospitality with an overall positive attitude as it is a people’s industry with travel opportunities and other exciting aspects,” he continues.
Even though he is now 44, he hasn’t lost this sense of excitement or his energy.
It is this that has seen the Wild Coast Sun outperform expectations during the 2021 festive period.
“During December 2021 our room nights sold rose to 99% of December 2019, the closest metric we have before the pandemic began. What is interesting to note is that the beginning of December was buoyed by an increase in conferencing business but, by mid-December, our guests were upcountry domestic travellers booking holidays for their families. They also booked longer stays with the minimum period being three days,” Peter explains.
It comes as no surprise, then, that he sees himself as the custodian of a national and significant provincial tourism asset. The Wild Coast Sun is Sun International’s only beachfront resort and second oldest property after Sun City, having celebrated its 40th birthday at the end of 2021.
Peter and his dedicated team believe they have steered the Wild Coast Sun ship through the worst of the storm.
He credits good rates and offering value for money as a key factor in the resort’s success. “We focused on what was within our control, which is how rates became the success story of the month.”
As 95% of the hotel’s business is local, with KZN visitors in the majority, he has his eye firmly on domestic tourism as the key to recovery during these turbulent times. In fact, he firmly believes that pent-up demand from the domestic market and easing of Covid-19 restrictions are the main factors which will help drive the recovery in the domestic tourism sector this year.
“Domestic travellers are providing a much needed boost to help sustain our business, and will continue to be a key driver of our recovery in the short to medium term. There has been a pickup in domestic travellers in our hotel and we anticipate them returning,” he says.
Peter also sees a far bigger picture and is hugely passionate about South Africa as a destination. He sees the Eastern Cape as a largely undiscovered jewel, a wonderland of people, natural beauty and products.
When he is not putting in long hours at the Wild Coast Sun, Peter is a family man. He describes his greatest achievement as his children – a daughter and two sons.
He is a keen sportsman, enjoying running and surfing. In his youth, he turned out for Mamelodi Sundowns Under 21s. He is a huge supporter of the Brazilians as an overseas team but he supports Sundowns locally. He is also a staunch Arsenal fan. In rugby season, Peter’s allegiance is split between the Sharks and the EP Kings.
Musically, he is a fan of Mi Casa and lists their song La Vida as his personal favourite. He also loves the seaside with “anywhere that has gorgeous white sandy beaches” being his destination of choice.
Peter is also definitely not a man to rest on his laurels. As he puts it: “My biggest achievement is yet to come. I am always looking to achieve more tomorrow than I did today.”