Peeling away layers of success

FROM peeling onions in a hotel kitchen to globe-trotting for an international hotel group – this has been Clive van Oudtshoorn's journey to success.

Now in his dream job as national operations manager for the Mantis Collection, Van Oudtshoorn said the past three decades in the hotel industry had gone by "in the blink of an eye".

He started in the 1980s at the Southern Sun group and worked for the group for 15 years before moving to the Protea Hotel group and later starting his own consultancy business.

In 2009 Van Oudtshoorn became involved with the Radisson Blu hotel in Port Elizabeth – initially as an owner-representative liaising between the hotel and the developer. He later stayed on as the first general manager of the hotel.

Despite the hospitality industry's demanding lifestyle, Van Oudtshoorn still found time to complete a B.Com and an MBA degree.

"The qualifications have helped me a lot in understanding the industry. However, when I speak to students at the University of Stenden in Port Alfred it is important to remind them that they need a certain kind of humility to start off with in this business," Van Oudtshoorn, who is on the advisory board at Stenden, said.

Another lesson he teaches not only the Stenden students and new staff members, but also his sons, is to make sure that the industry in which they want to pursue a career path is what they really want in life.

"The hospitality industry is a lifestyle choice – it has become a 24-hour operation and requires certain personal attributes. But working shifts can also free up more time to balance your personal life. I enjoy the lifestyle. There have been some sacrifices but I am passionate about the industry and my family has supported me," Van Oudtshoorn said.

He said working for the Mantis Collection, which has 60 hotels, lodges and game reserves across the world with 14 based in South Africa, had been very different from looking after only one hotel.

As national operations manager for the Mantis Collection, he visits the hotels and lodges on all the continents and assesses whether they are profitable and conform to the service levels of the group.

"An exciting part of my portfolio is to grow the business and we want to aggressively grow the company locally by doubling the number of hotels in the country. I am excited about the possibilities in the country. There is a unique need for our brand of hotels," Van Oudtshoorn said.

One of the other business ventures that excites Van Oudtshoorn is Mantis Extreme, which has already launched in the US and UK in conjunction with celebrity-adventurer Bear Grylls to offer extreme survival outings to clients staying at Mantis hotels.

Asked about last year's liquidation of the developers of the Radisson Blu hotel brand in Port Elizabeth, Van Oudtshoorn said it still was a sound business but had a flawed funding model.

"I was involved with Radisson from pre-opening and worked there until such stage where I could hand it over to be managed successfully. I still think it is a great addition to the way PE does business with international visitors and adds value to the industry."