24 Nov 2014 | By Sun International

Meet the Zambezi Sun’s New Manager Caron van Rooyen

Managing one of the top hotels in Zambia is no mean feat, but Caron Van Rooyen is ready for the challenge. Van Rooyen recently joined the Sun International family as the new hotel manager of the Zambezi Sun in Livingstone, and brings with her 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

We chatted to her about what makes the Zambezi Sun unique, why every guest is a dream guest, and how she defines success in the hospitality industry. 

Q: Having relocated to Zambia from South Africa, what were some first impressions about your new home?

A: From the moment I stepped onto Zambian soil I have been amazed at the beauty of the country and the friendliness, respectfulness, integrity and honesty of its people. Zambia is magnificent, and I feel truly blessed to be working at the foot of the majestic Victoria Falls. While I'll certainly miss my family back home, at least they now have a beautiful destination to come and visit.

Q: Is it more challenging today to show what makes a property unique? What makes the Zambezi Sun unique?

A: It’s much more challenging to prove uniqueness in the big cities, as the competition is vast and your neighbours are always trying to outdo you. The Zambezi Sun’s spectacular setting at the foot of the Victoria Falls gives our accommodation in Zambia a unique edge. Add on the property’s recent refurbishments and its dynamic team of staff, and we have a winning combination.

Q: What are some of the new features that guests can look forward to at the Zambezi Sun?

A: All 212 rooms are being completely redone with a fresh look and feel. Feedback so far has been fantastic, with guests saying how much they love the modern comfort of the new rooms. While the current refurbishment will take a year, the pool bar, hotel restaurant and children’s play area is complete, and we have a brand new Moroccan-themed lounge where guests can laze around or enjoy a sundowner. 2015 will see the continuation of the refurbishment including the lobby and business centre.

Q: How would you compare managing the Zambezi Sun with some of your other hotel experiences? 

A: While nothing can compare to the incredible location of the Zambezi Sun, the efficient management of any hotel requires the fundamental principles of hard work, passion and complete dedication no matter where the hotel is situated.

Q: What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced in your 15-year hospitality career?

A: This is a tough industry. I have faced many challenges throughout my career, the toughest being a woman in management in what has always been considered a “man’s world.” However, if I could do it all again I would. My experiences, both good and bad, have led me to this point today.

Q: What is your definition of a dream guest? Are you, personally, a difficult hotel guest? 

A: Every guest is a dream guest! Even guests who scream and shout have valuable input on improving our service and offering. I’m not a difficult guest. If I’m not satisfied with a hotel’s facilities or service, I will always complain constructively.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: If guests are happy and satisfied, it means I’ve achieved my goals and targets, and am running a motivated team. On a personal level though, I sit here today as the happiest hotel employee on the planet! I really do feel successful in reaching this point – all the years of hard work and intense stress have paid off.

Q: What is the most important aspect of your role as hotel manager, and what are some key personality traits or characteristics required to be a successful?

A: The most important aspect of my job is to lead and inspire my team towards one shared goal: happy and satisfied hotel guests. To be a successful hotel manager, you need to be passionate about the service industry and willing to serve and assist wherever possible. It’s important to always have a smile on your face and to treat problematic guests with patience and tact. You need to be a people’s person with excellent interpersonal skills, as well as good leadership skills to keep staff motivated and happy.

Q: What advice would you give youngsters entering the hospitality industry?

A: Get a qualification! It’s a competitive job market, and you’ll need a diploma or degree. At the same time, you need a practical understanding of the industry. Work in all departments of the hotel so that you can determine which area is more suited to you and which area you enjoy more.