“My core responsibilities are to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the cableway and all its supporting functions,” says new general manager of the Harties Cableway Jack Lester, who took up his post at the end of January 2019. “This includes food and beverage outlets and our conference facility.”
He foresees his greatest challenge as being able to cope with “the economic headwinds that our region and our country are currently experiencing”, which makes doing business a bit tougher. “We have to think out of the box more consistently. I believe that business agility is vital – if you’re not flexible, you will not succeed,” he says.
Lester will draw on his extensive hospitality industry experience to manage a staff of 75 and the thousands of visitors who make the trip up the cableway annually.
Although Harties already plays host to around 30 000 visitors a month in peak season, Lester plans to grow that number. “We want to see growth not only in revenue, but also in footfall. Our goal is to extend the stay of our guests by creating pockets of entertainment and products that will turn a two-hour visit into a five- or six-hour stay.”
Apart from the drawcard cableway trip to the mountaintop, there are attractions such as a weekend market, a 360-degree express restaurant, a functions deck, a lookout bar, a mountaintop lawn for picnics, an artisanal pizza shack and bar, an ice-cream shack, and a shaded area in which to relax.
Lester is full of innovative ideas for Harties, including seasonal specials at the eateries as the year progresses. The 360-degree restaurant is to be upgraded to create a high-speed Wi-Fi “office-from-the-office”, a slow lounge with good wine and a winter fireplace, and a new high-tea venue – “the highest in the region”, quips Lester. Other plans include an obstacle course at the top with a zipline that will be run by third-party professionals.
“We’ll be putting a massive focus on events at Harties in order to retain loyal guests and attract new visitors,” he says. Look out for sundowner jazz sessions, stargazing evenings, student days, slow markets at the bottom over weekends, pensioner Tuesdays, food and wine pairing, oysters-and-bubbles functions, and other fantastic entertainment.
Also in line to receive special attention is Harties’ superb conference and events facility, to increase weekday demand.
“This year, Harties will be represented at major tourism platforms such as Meetings Africa, Africa’s Travel Indaba and the Rand Show, as well as local gatherings like North West province tourism campaigns and Hartbeespoort tourism initiatives,” Lester says.
Despite all things Harties on his mind, the new cableway head finds time to participate in triathlons, having previously completed the 70.3km Ironman South Africa event in East London and a Durban triathlon. He spends a lot of time mountain biking and in the gym to keep fit.
Relaxation comes in the form of time at home with his partner, cooking, collecting fine wines and dining out – for fun, as well as to keep abreast of food and beverage trends. He also enjoys gardening.
With his unlimited energy and proactive attitude, great things are going to happen at Harties – watch this space!