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The driving force behind Soweto’s first luxury hotel, on Freedom Square, has been recognised for her efforts in the tourism sector.
RISING stars who are forging their own paths in the business world are earning recognition for their contributions, and Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo is one such entrepreneur whose hard work has been rewarded.

Lindiwe Sangweni-SiddoLindiwe Sangweni-Siddo has won the 2012 Joburg Tourism Entrepreneur Award for SMMEsSangweni-Siddo won the Joburg Tourism Entrepreneur Award for SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) this year. The award is given out by the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC) as part of its participation in the annual Tourism Indaba in Durban, which this year ran from 12 to 15 May.

The acting chief executive officer of the JTC, Phelisa Mangcu, named Sangweni-Siddo as the victor at a networking breakfast at the Hilton Hotel on 14 May. The award was launched at the 2011 Tourism Indaba, so Sangweni-Siddo is only the second person to receive the honour; the first-time winner was Jojo Tsheola of Tsheola Dinare Tours.

There are a variety of criteria that young business-owners need to fulfil to be considered, including a minimum of three years operating in the tourism industry; providing an innovative product or service; showing sustainability, growth and job creation potential; providing excellent standard of service; offering benefits to the community in which they operate; and showing commitment to skills development initiatives for employees.

Sangweni-Siddo not only ticked all of these boxes, she created a few new boxes of her own: she was the brains behind the Soweto Hotel and opened the doors of Joburg’s first black-owned and black-female-managed hotel on 27 October 2007. It was also Soweto’s first four-star hotel.

Initially a Holiday Inn, the hotel was an element of the Freedom Square development in Kliptown. It then transformed into its current incarnation, complete with 48 rooms, two of which are presidential suites, conference rooms, a bar and Jazz Maniacs restaurant.

She stumbled into a career in tourism quite by accident, after a stranger on a bus told her she should consider taking a course in hotel management. She took their advice and attended the Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. She followed this with a degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management at Pennsylvania State University in the United States, and joined the Washington DC company, Global Hyatt Corporation.

“This was just the start of a stellar career in the business of hospitality and tourism,” says the JTC’s Laura Vercueil. “[She] has travelled extensively, has lived and worked in hotels in Africa, Europe and America, and she’s climbed the corporate ladder from assistant front office manager to the point where her understanding of what’s required in the hotel and tourism industry is acute.”

Sangweni-Siddo has, in the course of her career, served on the boards of the South African Weather Service, Sandton Tourism Association and as director on the board of South African Tourism.

“Her recent appointment as managing director of the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre once again affirms her calibre, experience and the regard with which she is held in the industry,” Vercueil says.

Despite her continued trajectory up the career ladder, Sangweni-Siddo is keeping her feet firmly on the ground and in touch with her roots – and she still oversees the Soweto Hotel.

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