Radisson - Elmarie Fritz GM

The last thing Radisson Blu general manager Elmarie Fritz expected to be told this year was that she had been nominated for a prestigious national hospitality award.

One can imagine her surprise, then, when she was recently named among the country’s best general managers in the sector at a glittering awards ceremony in Sandton.

Fritz, who has been at the helm of the Gqeberha hotel since 2021, was recognised alongside three other GMs in the Hotel Industry Excellence category of the CMO Awards at the Hilton Hotel earlier this month.

The awards, held in numerous countries around the world, honour elite brand custodians, advertisers and managers across various industries.

Outstanding hospitality professionals were included for the first time this year.

“To be among the first to receive this award is humbling,” Fritz said. “Right up until I arrived at the event, I wasn’t even sure what to expect.”

A number of high-profile guests were in attendance and she admitted to having felt “very small in that room”.

Fritz and her fellow nominees were judged on criteria such as leadership, critical thinking, finance and management skills, innovation, guest satisfaction and contribution to sustainability.

Radisson - Elmarie Fritz GM

Elmarie Fritz, general manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Gqeberha, was recently recognised as one of the best in South Africa. Photo: Radisson Blu

Self-effacing by nature, she immediately paid tribute to her team at the Radisson for their role in her success.

“I have a phenomenal team. They are me. They understand this industry and we are all on the same page. For us, teamwork is a way of living.”

She also thanked the Radisson’s board of directors for giving her the opportunity to become a first-time GM.

Fritz – who held various positions at Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estate, Legacy Hotels & Resorts and Minor Hotels in the past – has never been one to micro-manage as she has complete faith in her 10 heads of department.

She described them as leaders (rather than managers) whose skills ensured that they shaped their respective teams effectively.

“I am not the GM who walks down passages shouting and screaming. I have a chat and give a hug when it’s needed.”

As much as she did not set out to win awards, being recognised in this way was pleasing as it confirmed she was on the right track, she said.

Fritz will not be resting on her laurels.

“In fact, if this doesn’t inspire you to do more, it is problematic. In our industry, you always have to look at ways to consistently improve.

“You need to be learning constantly. I would actually say this is just the start, not the end.”

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the award was that it put Gqeberha on the map as a player in the South Africa hospitality sector, she said.

Her fellow category winners included GMs from high-end establishments like the Hilton in Sandton and The Taj in Cape Town, meaning that the Radisson in Nelson Mandela Bay has now well and truly made its mark.

“Putting us on that level gives us a sense of confidence that we are moving in the right direction,” she said.

“PE is considered a small town. A lot of times we are forgotten, but now people will say, ‘Look at what this small town is doing’. It’s very satisfying.”

Along the way, Fritz has had many mentors who gave her a chance to grow in her career. Her ethos has always been to listen and learn from others.

She paid special tribute to Natalie Bright at Fancourt on the Garden Route. “She was the one who gave me my footing in the industry.”

Fritz has not had much time to celebrate since there is always work to be done at the hotel, but glasses are bound to be raised at the group’s next quarterly meeting.