Interview with John Aritho – General Manager of Garden Court Hotel

Here’s a little about John Aritho, a muti-talented man who is now the General Manager of the Garden Court hotel on the Marine Parade in Durban. John has worked and trained in various countries such as Africa, India and the Middle East. He is currently studying toward his Certified Hotel Administrator Qualification.

          John Aritho (left)

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

I got into the hospitality industry due to my love for cooking and hosting dinners. I knew I wanted to study Hotel Management with a focus in Oriental Cuisine and gain valuable exposure and experience with Eastern cuisine. I started as a Commis Chef and this way I learnt the trade by learning the absolute basics which gave me a better understanding of the hospitality industry.

In your experience what are the 3 most important skills to have when working in your industry?

A) Listening – you have to listen to your customer and your team; it results in conscious decisions concerning the business and the employees. B) Analytical – Business analytical skills helps one understand that it is critical to stay in business by making the right business choices, from a Room Rate decision or a Menu Item decision. C) People Skills – One has to be ready to face various situations that involves customers, suppliers, contractors, service providers and colleagues.

Most GMs are highly motivated individuals, what keeps you motivated?

There are three main factors; – Team members, I enjoy what I do and my team helps make this happen. We work together for a healthy and happy working environment.

Guest feedback – it is called a Hoteliers ‘Daily Performance Review’. Satisfied guests give great satisfaction and keep me motivated and focused daily.

Great financial results – a great profit flow comes from great business practices. Both factors lean on each other. Sustainable business results keeps me motivated to do better each day.

How often are you in contact with guests – personally or via social media?

I spend time communicating with guests in various ways – I meet guests personally, write welcome and departure notes and I reply to Trip Advisor comments as well as an internal Guest Feedback forum. About 60% of my time is spend communicating with guests.

What is the biggest challenge when it comes to running an upscale hotel?

It is ensuring that all departments excel in the delivery of quality service as well as ensuring that revenues generated are translated into the bottom line. There’s a need to have well trained and qualified personnel that are enthusiastic in delivering consistent great service.

Is there a fitness component and do you need a spa today to be considered a certain type of hotel?

Fitness is an important part of the people’s lives, as more people are getting more health conscious. Guests want Spas and it is important to consider this in the Hotel Industry.

In your opinion, what is the single most important issue in the hospitality industry in South Africa?

Security and Safety – Travellers need to feel safe and secure to walk around and stay in comfort. This determines where guests stay and unsafe locations will struggle to attract a clientele if unsafe.

You have travelled to many countries across the world, what attracted you to stay in South Africa? Or do you have plans to relocate in the future?

South Africa has a special place in my heart as it is a very diverse country and has one of the best infrastructures and places to visit.

If you can describe the hospitality industry in one word what would it be?


How important is a hospitality-related education to become successful in the industry?

Hospitality related education is vital for the growth of the Industry and it will always need well skilled young minds. It is important for students to join schools that offer quality education as this makes the student relevant. Without trained employees, customer retention is effected.

If you were to be graduating from a hotel school in 2015, what would be your next step?

An up to date and convincing CV, study an extra International language and approach the establishment that I would like to work with. Then start from the bottom and work my way up, learning the basics and practicing what I have learnt. I would also take lessons from current leaders. Money should not be your driver but rather passion for what you do.

What does the rest of 2015 hold for you?

I look forward to growing the business, closing more deals and growing my team to achieve great rankings. I’m keen to improve my knowledge by doing courses as well as continue a mentorship programme that I run. One thing I look forward most is spending time with my newborn daughter and my wife and stop to enjoy the sunshine on the Durban beaches.

What advice would you offer to those who are inspired to become a GM one day?

Being a GM is not an accomplishment but a journey of small learnings each day. To be a leader one has to be ready to serve others, humbly. Servant leadership is something I’ve learnt over the years and ensuring that you do the best in whatever function you have. They say a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.

Submitted by: Hotel School

Retrieved from:

Date of published: December 09, 2015

Date of visited: February 7, 2016


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