Joint CEOs Gary Koetser and Glyn Taylor discuss their career journeys, staying relevant in a pandemic and what makes them tick…
The road to hospitality
Gary Koetser and Glyn Taylor dove into the working world while still at school, taking jobs on weekends to earn extra money. Koetser worked in restaurants, and he says it seemed a natural progression to cross the floor to hotels. He worked his way up to junior GM positions in smaller hotels, and then on to bigger hotels, until he was appointed regional general manager of Protea Hotels by Marriott.
Taylor’s story is similar; he went to the Three Cities Hotel Group and rose through the ranks there. When he left as director of operations, he was overseeing 45 hotels in Southern Africa. The group was later bought out by AHA Group part of Tourvest.
Through Koetser’s years in the hotels, he got to know the developers of Century City. “They approached us as they wanted two operators who knew hotels,” he says. The mixed-use development already had residential and office buildings, as well as the Canal Walk shopping centre, schools and restaurants but a central business hub was needed. “We both knew that this was a huge opportunity for us,” says Koetser. “We were on board almost a year before we [the conference centre] opened, which was great, as we had the opportunity to figure things out together.” He admits that while he and Taylor sometimes had differing visions, this worked to their advantage. “We thrashed things out – everything was debated about at length until we eventually got to the solution, and this has been a massive part of our success.”
The Covid-19 legacy
So how did they ensure the survival of their conferencing and hotels business through the pandemic? “We took the stance during Covid that we had to remain relevant,” explains Taylor. “We adapted to what the market needed at that stage and that was the virtual conference centre. Although it seems cost-effective upfront, the reality is that the world is not ready, in certain markets, for this virtual world. People who rely on networking, such as those in sales need to engage face to face.” Taylor goes on to explain that a hybrid scenario is currently more popular, however they are seeing with their upcoming events that physical attendance is back. “Post-covid we’re breathing a sigh of relief; we managed to keep our brand out there, and are reaping the benefit of this now,” he says.
“We’ve doubled our capacity in our meeting events team to keep up with the demand on quotations and this is showing the appetite there is.” Koetser mentions that when he and Taylor went to the IMEX trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, there was no discernible difference pre- and post- pandemic. “It was all about face-to-face meetings, building relationships, going to cocktail parties and networking functions. It’s what people have been craving. People have had a taste of virtual and they don’t like it and it don’t want it.”
Taylor says people have also revisited the way they do things. “Sustainability is a hot topic, but the cost of working has risen and the opportunity on revenue yield is not there yet because demand is not back to where it was yet. So, we are going to have to make a shift to make sure our businesses are sustainable in the most cost-effective manner.”
So, who are G & G really?
“Most people wouldn’t know that we both love cooking,” Taylor says. “I qualified as a chef initially and then went into management. We also go boxing twice a week to keep energies high and remain mentally focused.”
Koetser agrees he also enjoys cooking: “Glyn gives me the recipes and I perfect them! I enjoy golf; I’m not great at it but I enjoy it, and I play a bit of table tennis.”
On the value of Fedhasa
“The new leadership in the Western Cape is really listening to the voices of the people on the ground,” Taylor says. “It is hopefully shifting as the industry has shifted to help resolve topics with one voice. Post-Covid, people are listening, and we are optimistic and eager to see what the Fedhasa space will look like in a year’s time.”
Koetser agrees: “As Glyn says, there seems to be a new lease on life, so we are eager to participate and to share and collaborate.”