Wayne Johnson keeps things real

Wayne Johnson
Wayne Johnson

RESILIENT Wayne Johnson, 38, chairman of SAACI Northern Territories Branch and Fancourt’s Johannesburg regional sales executive, exudes a quiet authority.

He started his hospitality career in 1998 as an in-service management trainee with the Three Cities hospitality Group. Over his seven year career with them he gained valuable experience in both hotel operations and sales.

“I always aspired to work for a five star product, and Fancourt’s offering has exceeded my expectations. I joined Fancourt in October 2013 and am loving it.”

Mr Johnson joined the Avis sales team in KwaZulu-Natal and after a year, took a position with Avis in Johannesburg and seven years later, Johannesburg is the place he now officially calls home. After leaving Avis as the meetings, incentive, conference and events sales manager, he went back to his hotel roots holding positions with Signature Life Hospitality and ISO Leisure Hotels. In October 2013 he was given and exciting opportunity to grow the Gauteng business events market for Fancourt and joined their sales team.

Wayne has been a SAACI member since his Avis days and has served as NTB Branch chairperson for the last two years; he was also congress chair for the 2012 SAACI Annual Congress. He is very passionate about the association and believes strongly in the benefits of membership.

Being a cancer survivor, he lives by one motto: “Only you can make it happen…”

How do you see in the industry at present and where do you see it heading in the future?
The industry is changing. There are new dynamics in play through technology. Social media means people are always connected. As an industry, we all need to embrace these changes. With the high level of competitiveness – no one can afford to stay behind.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Zimbabwe but grew up in Port Elizabeth; I only left Port Elizabeth at 21 to join Alpine Heath, part of a three year internship.

Where did you start your hospitality career?
I started my hospitality career as a waiter at Pizza Hut. I then managed a restaurant in Port Elizabeth before joining the International Hotel School – Three Cities Hotels.

How long have you been in the hospitality sector?
I have been in the hospitality sector for 16 years. I love building relationships with my clients, many of which have loyally supported me over the years, and the various brands I’ve represented.

What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in this sector?
The value for money proposition has changed. We are in a very competitive sector and post 2010 we have all had to become a lot more creative in how we sell.

What role does your family play in your life?
I am very blessed as my partner, Charl, is very supportive of my role at SAACI and my position at Fancourt, a “bachelor” on occasions to the hospitality industry, but he enriches and balances my life.

What would you change in your life if you could when looking back?
I’ve never regretted anything I’ve done. Everything has taught me something and I believe has made me stronger.

Do you have any hobbies?
I recently discovered a love for cooking and baking, it is a super way to de-stress. I also enjoy reading.

What do you do for leisure?
I enjoy spending time with friends. I have a very close social circle.

What is your secret to success?
My passion for this industry has definitely been a motivator. From a young age I have always wanted more and strived to get it. After my parent’s divorce, when I was a young child, it made me realise that I needed to be a lot more self-reliant.

What is your pet hate?
Abuse to animals and lack of service.

What is the most memorable place you have ever been to, and why?
When I was 14, my parents took us back to my country of birth, Zimbabwe for a holiday. We were even able to go back to our farm, where I had some memories of my early childhood. Our holiday included Victoria Falls and ferry boat trip on Lake Kariba – I have special memories of that holiday.

What type of holiday would you avoid at all costs?
A cruise – I’ve watched Titantic one too many times.

What is your favourite city?
Johannesburg because the people are friendly and there is a definite buzz, it has always felt like home from the day I arrived here.

What is your favourite book, film, TV programme?
Favourite Book: Any James Patterson or Jeffrey Archer books.
Film: Pretty Women.
TV Programme: The Fixer, NCIS, CSI.

How do you relax?
At the end of a busy work day, I find comfort in my kitchen…and of course a glass of vino always does the trick.

What is your favourite food?
Pasta and salads.

Who is your favourite movie star?
Julia Roberts.

Who is your role model?
My mother – June. She has always been constant and grounded. After the divorce she showed me unbelievable strength and always kept things together.

What advice do you have for anyone starting out in this industry and hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Yes, this industry is exciting and ever-changing. However it requires a lot of hard work and passion.

What is your career dream for the future?
To manage a regional sales team and later, possibility lecturing at a hotel school. I like the idea of uplifting and imparting knowledge.