Is the OR Tambo Southern Sun the Best Hotel in Johannesburg?

This is an independent review of a Johannesburg hotel. The author has no links and received no incentive to write this review.

Travelling to Johannesburg is a frequent occurrence for me so it helps to find a luxurious hotel in close proximity to the airport.

Over the years the OR Tambo Southern Sun hotel has always been my base except for one occasion. In fact I am now registered with their Southern Sun frequent guest card. However, I have no affiliation to the hotel aside from the frequent guest card. This is only my second time in using the card.

The hotel, fondly known as “The Glass House” by locals due to its external appearance used to be part of the Holiday Inn chain. At that time the hotel was average but since being re-branded a few years ago, the decor and service has improved a fair bit.

Arrivals

If you are fortunate to have someone pick you up from the airport then your driver will appreciate the relatively short drive. The hotel is situated close to the entrance road to the airport, maybe 2 minutes away.

My arrival time was not suited for colleagues to collect me so I availed myself of the complimentary hotel shuttle bus. As you pass through Arrivals in the airport just walk towards the signs labelled as “Bus Terminal” and wait there for the bus.

Warning: Make sure you get on the correct bus! Sounds obvious but some of the people loitering around this area will try to convince you that their bus is heading that way. Don’t do it!

The bus is clearly labelled as “Southern Sun” and will either be all black or a white one with a black label.

Check in

On arriving at the hotel you may come across over eager porters seeking to help with your luggage. Even if your luggage is minimal they would love to help, for a tip at the end.

At check-in I notified the receptionist guy of my surname under which the booking was made and showed my frequent guest card. He didn’t come across as the smartest since he asked me to write down my address details even though I could see them appear on the booking details on his screen.

There was also an issue I had with him over internet access which I’ll discuss below.

Check in didn’t take too long and thankfully there were enough staff on reception to avoid queuing. This is not always the case.

The lobby area was very spacious and comfortable to move around with some soft seats spread across the area. From the lobby you have immediate access to a suitable gym/fitness room, the restaurant, Bernoulli’s bar and Caroline’s (which is a beauty salon).

Room

The room is reasonable whilst not overly generous in size. Mine had a comfortable double bed with a selection of four pillows. In spite of this I found none of the pillows firm enough for my liking. They were also quite flat one I rested my head.

There is a reasonable size work desk with power sockets. Clearly catering to international visitors there was a multi-plug socket which would accept UK, European, American and Australian plugs.

There is an air conditioning unit by the window which you can control by a dial on the unit.

Tea and coffee making facilities are present. A selection of Nescafe instant coffees plus one “Green Tea & Mint” tea bag, one Rooibos (which I really don’t like but South Africans love) plus 2 Ceylon tea bags.

The Southern Sun has spoilt the party a little bit by removing the fridge/mini bar so there is a big gap behind the door on the TV cabinet.

The TV is a good size (I guess at 40″) digital wide-screen TV. I suspect it is not cable as there are frequent “No or weak signal” messages when channel hoping. This even happens whilst watching a channel.

The TV selection at the OR Tambo hotel is varied with movie, news and the seven Super Sport channels (which feature Premier League football). I was frustrated to come back to my room today to find the channels had been retuned. I could no longer find Sky News (yes news from the UK) so ended up watching RT (Russia Today) news channel before it lost the signal.

After this frustration I found something called BBC Lifestyle which was showing the UK version of “Come Dine with Me”. (Did you know there is a Come Dine with Me South Africa?). Whilst watching this, to my amazement a bar appeared across the bottom of the screen showing the channel name. Then someone centrally suddenly started changing the channel whilst I was watching it! Not a good sign if you ask me.

My room in the Southern Sun hotel also lacked the customary iron and ironing board. This had to be borrowed on request. This is a great shame for what pitches to be a high class hotel yet without this basic accessory.

The bathroom is pleasant in decor with a light cream colour. There is a shower only but this is powerful and adequate. The complimentary toiletries do smell quite nice.

The room is quite small so don’t be too wild in towelling yourself off!

The toilet seemed fully functional and the sink had a good size mirror above it.

I was further disappointed though as there was no socket to plug in an electric razor whilst in the bathroom.

Room Service

I used the room service a few times, whilst writing for my blog. The food was reasonably priced for a hotel, around £10 for an adequate main dish and a juice drink. (I stayed in October 2012 whilst writing this article.)

Delivery was often promised within half an hour and this promise was kept. The food often arrived earlier. The delivery staff were pleasant and courteous.

The room service did let itself down at 2:25 this morning. I was awoken by a persistent knocking on the door only to find room service were trying to deliver an order to my room. The waitress with tray in hand queries me when I explained that I was trying to sleep and I hadn’t ordered anything. After a bit of gentle persuasion she left and I tried to return to sleep.

Restaurant and Bar

The restaurant is of a good size, it has to be since during the week the OR Tambo Southern Sun is a busy hotel with business and frequent travellers, not just like myself.

Complimentary papers can be found here during breakfast time.

The breakfast is an all you can eat buffet which has a little something for everyone. The juices are fresh and the hot and cold food selections are extensive.

There is also a wide ranging evening buffet selection. An A-La-Carte menu does exist yet waiting staff try to urge you to take the buffet. Either they are being lazy or just want to give the kitchen a rest.

Waiting staff are generally high in number and seem very eager to remove any plate as soon as you finish eating from it.

The bar is well presented and comfortable with a decent drinks selection. There is also a TV showing a news channel (when they are not flipping channels!).

Internet

Unfortunately a fully complimentary internet service is not available at the airport hotel. Frequent guests can gain a voucher for 2 hours a day. Everyone can buy a range of vouchers depending upon their needs.

On check in I requested a voucher for the duration of my stay and indicated to charge it to my room. The guy on check in said that they only issue daily vouchers. Even though I queried it initially based on my previous visits I accepted the voucher and headed to the room.

I then checked the voucher and found it was for 2 hours only rather than a daily one which he indicated. On complaining and explaining that he hadn’t listened to what I asked for he apologised.

A more senior receptionist resolved the matter and issued me a voucher for the duration of my stay.

The internet connection, like the TV in South Africa is unreliable. Sometimes good, sometime not. One evening it went down at around 8:30 and didn’t work again until the next day.

Other features

The Southern Sun has an outdoor small swimming pool. It does not appear to be used much so you might get it to yourself.

The gym is very modern and well equipped. There are also a range of TV screens to keep you intrigued whilst pounding the treadmill.

The lobby area has a shop with overpriced souvenirs. There is quite a good range to explore.

I didn’t use any of these other features on this trip but have in the past.

Final impression

Tomorrow I check out from the hotel with mixed views.

The hotel is very nicely decorated and staff are pleasant and generally in happy spirits. Facilities are generally excellent and the location is ideal for the airport.

The improvements I would make at the OR Tambo airport hotel are:-

  • better internet connection which is fully complimentary
  • mini bar/fridge in the room
  • iron and ironing board as standard in all rooms
  • electrical socket for shavers in the bathroom

I would also appreciate some more attentive staff and not being woken at 2:25am!

Have you stayed in a hotel with similar issues? Feel free to share your experience in the comments box.

Overall I would rate the OR Tambo Southern Sun hotel in Johannesburg as 6 out of 10. It is comfortable but the OR Tambo Southern Sun is not the best hotel in Johannesburg by a long way.

Never Be Boring Again

Stories build a bridge of connection between a speaker and their audience.

Here’s what I’ve discovered over the last 20 years about corporate storytelling in business:

  • When training people, a story is the best way to help employees “grasp” an abstract concept. It helps them “buy into” a new idea or initiative. The story brings an intellectual idea into the “real world” so they “get” it. Listeners “see” what you’re saying and visualize it – which means they internalize it instead of just hearing it.
  • Using a well-crafted story is the key to winning over resistant audiences. If you have to give bad news, sharing a story often makes listeners understand a decision and accept it, even when they don’t like it.
  • Storytelling enhances your powers of persuasion. If you are proposing a product or service and your listeners aren’t “buying it,” telling them a story that paints a picture of how the product or service has been used successfully elsewhere “proves” its merit by allowing the listener to test drive the product or service.
  • Storytelling has the power to connect with an audience as no other medium can. It bridges the gap and removes any sense of separation.
  • Not all stories work. There are good stories and bad stories. The good ones create a bridge that connects the speaker and his or her audience. The bad stories fall flat or even worse – widen the gap.
  • Storytelling is a skill that can be practiced, learned and perfected. It’s like any other skill or discipline – the more you know, the better you become.

It was an odd reaction. I was in the middle of a customer service training session when my entire audience put down their pens almost at the same time, leaned back in their chairs and looked up at me with smiles and childlike innocence. It was as if a switch had been flipped in the room and all of a sudden the room was warmer. You know how you can hear the furnace turn on in the winter? It was like that, like the furnace turned on.

Up until that moment, the eighty people that were gathered in our chilly hotel room were listening to me, some more intently than others, while at the same time writing notes in their workbooks. They were listening, but they weren’t really with me. I knew this because when I’d ask a question, it would take a minute for people to respond – like their brains were on screen saver and when I put them on the spot it made them realize they were daydreaming of a beach in Jamaica.

But when I said those magic words, “let me tell you a story about a customer that I had” and I began telling a personal story, they all looked up and paid attention. They were right there with me hanging on every word. The only thing I can relate it to is a school of fish. You know how an entire school of fish turns left and then right and then left again at the same time as if they all have one brain? Like they are all one? Well the minute I started telling my story, it was as if we were all one. All of a sudden and without warning – we were connected.

At the end of that day, a number of people came up to me to thank me for the training. One lady commented on the story that I told and then launched into her own story about a customer she had. I didn’t think much about it at the time – but it kept happening time and again at every program where I told that story. My story reminded her of her story, but now she understood her story better.

Have you ever channel surfed on the TV? You’re sitting there on your comfy couch with a liquid beverage in one hand and your trusty remote in the other and you’re just flipping channels. Nowadays you can really do some flipping, can’t you? There are hundreds of channels to choose from and they’re all sitting out there hoping you’ll pick them. And you, you’re looking for something that catches your attention.

Are you aware that your audience is doing something very similar while you’re talking? They’re sitting there a few feet away from you and they’re listening to what you’re saying but in their mind they’re flipping channels, waiting for you to say something that catches their attention.

If you’re doing a speech or a training session and what you’re saying sounds anything like high school – lots of facts and figures and numbers that remind them of being bored to tears in chemistry class, they mentally flip the channel. They may be looking at you, but their heads are in Jamaica. That’s right, they’re watching the travel channel imagining themselves on a white sandy beach in Jamaica. Why?

Because they already did the school thing as kids and most of them didn’t like it, so anything that sounds like school turns them off. All the while, you want and need their full attention. You have to be as interesting as Jamaica.

That’s why you’re not finished talking ’til you’ve told a story. When you start telling a story, and you really get into it by having fun and letting yourself go, then they listen with full attention. That’s what it’s all about – getting their full attention. In order to do that you’ve got to have something better for them to listen to, something more interesting than the noise going on inside their heads. You’ve got to catch their attention.

So what’s your story? What are the stories from your life that are just like the stories from someone else’s life that they will immediately relate to. Your first job as a speaker is to create a relationship, which means that you’ve got to find something to say that they relate to. Facts and figures and numbers don’t do that.

Stories do – especially if they’re personal stories, the ones that are part of everyday life. If you can find everyday stories, and then craft them to make a good solid point, you’re a business storyteller. You’re on the fast track to success because you understand something that most people around you don’t – that stories are the best way to deliver content.

What was phenomenal about my customer service training experience was the sense of connection I had with that audience. At no other point during that entire day had I felt anything like it. One minute the room was chilly and the next minute it was warm. One minute the energy was scattered and the next it was focused. One minute I was trying to hold their attention and the next minute I had it.

I think you know what I mean. Every speaker who has ever stood in the front of a room to teach or speak or lead a meeting has experienced it. It’s a palpable feeling. You either have it or you don’t. It’s a sense of connection that you have with your audience – a sense of oneness.

When it’s not there, it’s as if there is a gap between you and your audience. No matter how hard you try to connect, there is a hollow space that separates you. Speakers hate the gap. Audiences hate the gap. It serves neither speaker nor audience. What’s needed is a bridge across the gap – something to connect speaker and audience.

So what’s the morale of the story? Tell a story – make a point. Follow this simple advice and you will… never be boring again!

Be Aware of the International Travel Tips For a World Tour

TraTraveling anywhere in the world is not just exciting but very adventurous and a learning process. Many times tourists face lots of complications during the journey but that hasn’t stopped anyone from doing it again. We are going to discuss some of the international travel tips that will narrow down those complications.

Get the Papers in Order
All the travelers need passports, visas and other important documents. They should always carry IDs and other identification papers. If you are an American, it is good to be in touch with the State Department because you will get help in case of an emergency.

If you are traveling to international countries then there are different agencies which you must check and get information on how to contact who and where in case of emergency.

Be Aware of the Political Situation in the Country
Be sure to check the current situation of the country before you go there. Some countries may be going under political disturbance situation. Such information can be read on local newspaper or can be seen in local news channel.

Another thing that you must know about the country you are planning to travel is about the terrorism. Unless you know about the situation, you must plan on what to do in case of emergency. This requires right preparations and need proper documents.

Be Aware of the Country Laws and Customs
To avoid any misunderstanding, you should know something of their behavior and what they expect from other people. Remember, you’re a guest in that country so respect their ways.

Familiarizing with laws and customs rules and regulation of the location is good. Information on things like rules on currency exchange, traffic violation penalties, general rules on smoking and alcohol and others should be clear upfront before you go there. Visit the local custom and get familiarized with the working environment and people. This will avoid misunderstanding with local people. Remember people behave differently when they see a foreigner so you must know how to deal and how to be friendly.

Health Issues and Concerns
Check the insurance policy form your insurance provider if they covers your health expenses in other countries or not. If they don’t, start looking for one who does. You’ll never know when you will need medical emergency when you are abroad. And least you will be assured that you have medical insurance.

Other thing related to health issue is about finding if there is any epidemic in the country or not. Get vaccinated if required. Never forget to check the level of pollution of that place because it might be very polluted than where you came from. So prepare accordingly when you pack your things.

Other Considerations
In some countries the custom department will ask you for documents if you take pets along with you. So you need to read all the custom regulations of that country before you decide to take your pets.

People with disabilities and senior members may have special privilege in that country. Try to get all information from custom department.

Bring the medicines if you are under mediation. Change your outfit if necessary because it might not look appropriate in that country or it may just grab the attention of robbers.

All these information must be read in order to save yourself from the hassles and other headaches which are likely happen if you don’t obey the rules, and by getting informed firsthand, you will be able enjoy and relax during the trip.