A talk with a hospitality trailblazer Hazel Gumpo
- Building people and dreams in Africa’s tourism landscape –
- Words by Louisa Choruma -
Head Hunting or scouting implies ‘’handpicking” a candidate for the job or selecting that individual with the desired qualities to best fill a role. Usually akin to sport – Hazel Gumpo brought this to Hospitality. Well respected among her peers as the ‘’Queen of the Brand’’ who personally identified employees to occupy gaps in the lodge, her meticulous approach, together with her eye for detail, taste for the finer things and passion for people has led to Hazel Gumpo’s unmatched legacy of as a trailblazer in Zimbabwean hospitality.
Having been headhunted by the ‘’Queen’’ myself, I was thrilled to catch up with Ms Hazel Gumpo, after having last seen her over a decade ago, when I worked under her leadership in the prestigious Functions Department of one of Victoria Falls’ top lodges.
Where it all began for Hazel to now
‘’My love story with hospitality began when from a young age, my father's many international travels brought diverse sets of guests to our doorstep over the years. My siblings and I would assist with the hosting, which I found fascinating and highly enjoyable. It’s safe to say that was when the seed was sown. Over the ensuing years, various other influences, whether in media or the world around me conspired to lead me to my preferred career choice - hospitality, “ recounts Hazel.
“I spent a number of years training in Germany, a period during which my gastronomic skills were piqued and honed. Because it is so important to stay current, I researched and followed trends to stay on top of my game,” she adds.
Now a seasoned professional with a career spanning 30 years in hotel management and capacity building, Hazel’s strengths include incisive strategic thinking, creative problem solving and an unmatched zeal for her work. On her return to Zimbabwe, Hazel’s first assignment was in one of Southern Africa’s finest properties - The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.
Hazel has worked as a capacity builder for over 15 years for a Southern African company with international expertise in providing cost-effective, tried and tested hospitality solutions, whose operations are characterized by a tireless quest for quality in every aspect of product and service delivery. Certified in AHMA Human Resources Management and AHMA Hospitality Training, the Ghana Hotels Association also awarded Hazel the Hotel Trainer of the Year accolade for 2015. In recognition of her significant contribution to the industry, she was acknowledged as one of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa by the ECOWAS region travel fair, Accra Weizo, in 2017.
Her mission statement is to build people and dreams and as such, is passionate about training and developing young hoteliers. Now with Elewana Collection, a portfolio of 16 boutique lodges, camps and hotels known for its unique accommodations in iconic locations across Kenya and Tanzania, Hazel considers herself privileged to head the Elewana Arusha Lodge team. Her vision is to create unforgettable encounters of Africa for visitors entering the northern safari circuit pre and post safari, thereby providing African culinary experiences with cultural encounters from arrival to departure.
Hazel’s passions include interior decoration, creative cooking, hosting and sightseeing. She is the daughter of farmers and delights in a farm environment - working and perhaps living on a farm will be on the cards for her future. She is the first born of a family of 5 girls and 1 boy and has not only grown to be a strong leader, but a trailblazer who was appointed into a significant managerial role at 22 years of age and within the past few years, was one of the few female GMs in Ghana and proudly the first female GM at Arusha Coffee lodge.
Hazel’s Top African Destinations
“Victoria Falls Zimbabwe is my top travel destination in Africa. I worked there for a good many years. It is an incredible place not only for being one of the seven wonders of the world but also the exceptionally strong sense of community. Hospitality there is literally a personal experience,” shares Hazel.
“Ghana welcomed me with open arms and in all the years I worked there, I never once felt like an outsider. It is a warm and vibrant nation and a cultural experience not to be missed.
I am currently discovering beautiful Tanzania, my current home. A definite must visit nation with its beautiful people, unique landmarks and abundant wildlife,” Hazel adds.
Hazel’s outlook on the future of Tourism and Hospitality – post COVID
Now the General Manager at Elewana Arusha Coffee , Hazel Gumpo had this to say about Tourism and Hospitality – in light of the COVID-era we now collectively find ourselves contending with:
“A new normal in the Hospitality Industry post COVID-19 ,will be a fine line between achieving physical distancing yet maintaining the warmth of human contact. This a big challenge in our industry, and given how innovation is indeed inevitable, new technologies and apps are replacing the human touch that has been our norm,” Hazel weighs in.
She also asserts that cleanliness and robust sanitisation programs will take precedence as part of all operations, hence perhaps there is a need to employ a more minimalistic approach to running all businesses, especially in the service industry.
“We are talking going as far as reducing the number of items needed to ensure cleaning and sanitised rooms. We are to pursue the rolling out of greater efficiencies, while also remaining mindful of environmental impact in all our processes. The road ahead is a long one, but we can all agree that there is no going back to the way things were before COVID-19,” Hazel concludes.