SAMANTHA CROFT is Tsogo Sun's first female Operations Director.

Mandated with supporting the management team in driving the hotel operations in the province, Croft's strong knowledge and understanding of the hospitality and tourism sector, especially in strategic business development and in driving corporate social responsibility initiatives has catapulted her to the region's leading role.

Over a 26-year career in the industry, she has focused on building and developing young talent and has diligently supported the community, stakeholder and government initiatives to achieve tourism goals in the city.

"It is my honour to be appointed to this key position in the Durban region. Tsogo Sun is committed to building a talent pool of highly skilled professionals focusing our commitment to service excellence. As a hotelier, I am passionate about growing new talent and bringing a distinctive and stronger Tsogo Sun touch to our city," said Croft.

Following her graduation in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Croft joined Southern Sun hotels. She briefly ventured off to The Palace of the Lost City for 18 months before taking on general management roles at Garden Court De Waal, Southern Sun North Beach and Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani Hotel where she successfully oversaw the multimillion rand refurbishment project, Croft is now confidently steering the ship to attain top tier results. Despite the huge demands and challenges faced as the first female regional leader in hospitality on the Golden Mile, Croft still finds a tremendous amount of joy in her work.

The most important aspect of the hospitality industry, she says, is to have the right attitude. "Sincerity and willingness to serve, and the dedication that comes with that, are vital. Of course there are challenges, but they're all part of a great job. You have to look for solutions and move forward as a team. It's important to solve issues together and put policies and procedures in place so you don't repeat the mistakes," she says.

Her vast experience in the industry has seen Croft gather a keen sense of what Durban needs to make it the best destination for locals and visitors. "There is an amazing atmosphere down here and it's fascinating to watch the changes." She added that the Elangeni and Maharani complex - Tsogo Sun's biggest and most profitable hotel in the group has been reaping the rewards of the improved precinct as both the corporate and tourist markets are rising.

With a keen eye for detail, Croft is constantly keeping abreast with tourism trends and developments and is keen to explore areas for improvement. "I am committed to customer service and also strive to create a pleasant working environment for all. I am keenly interested in developing people and have implemented a Rooms Skills Programme for the Group which is now run on a national level within the organisation," says Croft.

She highly recommends working in the hospitality industry to those considering a career in tourism. "If you have a positive attitude, love people and enjoy a busy environment, there's no better career," she says. "

"My mantra is 'hire for attitude, train for skill'. In order to live this, it is imperative that I create an environment conducive to growth. I believe without this, I would not be surrounded by a competent team of individuals.

"I firmly believe in a 'hands-on' approach and investing time in individuals, by personally imparting knowledge from personal experience.".

Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel