Blessed with entrepreneurial flair, coupled with a knack for launching, promoting and running successful exhibition centres, trade fairs, and lately also a group of exclusive lodges in sub-Saharan Africa as MD, alumnus Anton Post has certainly made his mark in the hospitality and tourism industry. Following his retirement in a year’s time, he would like to stay involved in tourism in some way or another and continue to add value. But first, he and his wife plan to go on their dream expedition. Join him on his life’s journey…
Q: What is your current position and what does it entail?
A: I am currently the Managing Director of Sanctuary Retreats, responsible for all the lodges in sub-Saharan Africa. We have 11 very exclusive properties in Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
is part of an international travel company, Abercrombie & Kent, which was founded in 1962 by Geoffrey Kent who is still involved in the company.
Q: Briefly summarise your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I started as a public prosecutor at Johannesburg Magistrates Court in 1977, but soon left to join Motorvia Transport Co. (I did not enjoy the courts at all!)
I subsequently joined the Department of Trade and Industry – Export Promotion – and after eleven months, in May 1979, I was transferred to the South African Embassy, Bonn, Germany, as a Trade Secretary.
My main tasks were export promotion, and as an important vehicle of export promotion, we expanded our participation in international trade fairs in Germany, which I found extremely interesting and stimulating. Trade fairs in Germany were – and still are – a very important sales and marketing tool.
Exposure to the German culture and their way of doing business was very stimulating, we made very good German friends with whom my wife and I still have contact.
In May 1985, I was transferred back to SA to join the Decentralisation Board.
I then resigned from the Department of Trade and Industry to start my own business, Exhibitions International, arranging the participation of SA firms in various foreign trade fairs as I strongly believed in the trade fairs as a sales and marketing tool.
I was very successful and continued for four years but politically SA was increasingly unpopular and sanctions started to make it very difficult to rent exhibition space at international trade fairs. I therefore decided to scale down the operation and to look for alternatives.
In August 1989, a head-hunter approached me for the position of Managing Director of the National Exhibition Centre (NASREC) and General Manager of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society, and I was very fortunate to be appointed to the position (a dual role).
I managed to expand the business very successfully and also started new, profitable exhibitions such as SAITEX and Auto Africa. The highlight was when SA was welcomed back into the international trade world, and after February 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, we could sell our local exhibitions to countries like India, the USA, etc.
In 1999, the intellectual property of the NASREC exhibitions was sold to Kagiso Media, and we founded Kagiso Exhibitions (KE).
I left KE in July 2000 and in 2001 joined Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) with the main task of developing new business for the centre in my role as Deputy Executive Director. A highlight was hosting the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002, which took place at the SCC and was organised by the United Nations – a major event!
Shortly after Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) opened its doors in 2004, I was appointed in a consultancy capacity to develop new business and assist on the operational side.
In May 2005, I joined Maropeng a Africa as General Manager of the Visitor Centre and Maropeng Hotel for the Cradle of Human Kind – a public/private partnership between the private sector and the Gauteng Government. The centre was still under construction, and I was very fortunate to start the new business from scratch and appoint all the employees – a very stimulating yet challenging exercise!
I joined Abercrombie & Kent in Botswana in 2007 as Operations Director for Botswana and in 2010 moved back to SA to take up the position of MD for Sanctuary Retreats, first for Botswana and Zambia and then for sub-Saharan Africa. Owing to COVID-19, it is a very challenging period as our business has almost come to a standstill.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: I only did my bachelor’s degree at UP. However, the basic theory that I studied – whether Economics, Business Economics, Accounting, etc – always came in very handy over the years. It laid the foundation for my current knowledge and experience. I was also privileged to attend classes by academic “heavy weights” such as Professors Jan Lombard, Charles Nieuwoudt and Nic Wiechers.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: Exploit every possible opportunity while you are at university – it’s actually a very short period of one’s life! Be a dedicated student but also enjoy the social side of it. I belonged to the Commercium Association for commerce students, and we had great fun – even had our own float in the Tuks Rag!!
If at all possible, continue with post-graduate studies as it is quite difficult to work and study.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/company/consultancy/organisation?
A: I believe the following ‘building blocks’ are vital in order to lay a firm foundation upon which you can build a thriving business:
Superior financial management
Attention to detail (Dr Anton Rupert is a prime example)
Good people skills to earn respect, not enforce it
Obviously, a very good product in which you believe and are proud of
Cash is King!
Resilience. There will definitely be challenging times, but have the tenacity to ‘hang in there.’
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc) do you enjoy reading?
A: I really enjoy Moneyweb and then business and tourism related newsletters and magazines. I also really enjoy the views of economic and political commentators and radio and TV discussions. I also enjoy reading biographies…
Q: What really inspires/motivates you personally?
The success of other entrepreneurs/businesses, who started small but became very successful, such as Anton Rupert, Tekkie Town and Rovos Rail.
Achieving our own budgets and forecasts. Also to have a positive effect and be inspiring to colleagues.
To satisfy each and every guest and get good feedback greatly inspires me! I am in the hospitality industry where we deal with very demanding, but also rewarding guests.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: I would have loved to have met Dr Japie van Zyl, born in Namibia and who worked for NASA as well as Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as a researcher for 30 years. Sadly, he passed away in the US last month.
At JPL he, inter alia, helped design the radar system that enabled the robot Curiosity to land on Mars in 2012. From the USA, he also regularly participated in the RSG radio programme Sterre en Planete.
His achievements proved that someone from a small town in Namibia can achieve great international success. This means a lot to me as I grew up in Namibia.
I also have great admiration for Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans. He has been campaigning tirelessly for the conservation of our oceans and has swum to the North Pole! One of his quotes: “There will be dozens of reasons to quit. Think of just ONE reason to keep on going, it will make all the difference,” is certainly worth remembering.
Q: Going forward, what are your career, personal goals?
A: I have another year left in my current role and I would like to stay involved in the tourism industry in some way after retiring. But first, my wife and I are planning to go on an “expedition”, travelling into Africa as far north as possible with our well-equipped Land Rover Defender.
Q: Your dream, from a socio-economic perspective, for South Africa?
A: To achieve continuous, solid economic growth that will ensure job creation. This, in turn, will not only reduce the dependency of the poorer section of our population on social grants from government; it will help to broaden the tax base and have a positive multiplier effect on the SA. Less crime should be another positive spin-off.