Flying with fairground

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FAIRGROUND CEO: Gorata Mmathebe Gabaraane
  • Meet the boss

Gorata Mmathebe Gabaraane’s profile makes for impressive reading.

Backed by years of experience in the hospitality industry, where she excelled with Cresta, Gabaraane then went on to shine at Local Enterprise Agency (LEA) and Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), thriving in the pressure-cooker environment.

The 50-year-old now finds herself at the helm of Fairground Holdings, taking the company to new heights as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

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Kindly introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m from Tlokweng, I’m married to Thatayaone Gabaraane and we have three beautiful girls.

I have a B.Sc. in Hospitality/Hotel Management as well as MSc in Strategic Management.

Before joining Fairground Holdings, where were you?

I worked for Cresta Marakanelo Group as a Hotel General Manager at various hotels and Special Projects Manager at Group level.

At some stage at Cresta, I was in charge of the Graduate Management Program as a dual role to the GM position.

I also worked at LEA & BITC with a role in the Strategy and Quality Management Office.

I spent a total of 10 years working as a Tourism Specialist as well as in the Strategy Office.

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I made the greatest impact at LEA where I was exposed to completely new areas and dual roles and still excelled! The other thing about LEA was that one was always constantly challenged to do better and be prepared for EXCO and Board interactions – such brilliant people!

And now you’re the CEO of Fairground Holdings, what does an average work day involve for you?

This is largely dependent on the season during which the business is going through.

My day can start with meetings outside of the office in pursuance of a business deal or securing a partnership or a slower start with a line-up of one-on-ones and catch-up meetings with project teams, walking the floors, meeting and greeting customers.

So what exactly does Fairground Holdings do?

Fairground Holdings (Pty) Ltd is a leading and largest business in the provision of a one-stop venue for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions in Botswana; commonly and globally known as ‘MICE’ sub-sector of the Tourism and Hospitality industry.

The company’s mandate is to host fairs, exhibitions and events, event management services, outside catering services, conferences and meetings, banqueting, equipment rental, open space rental.

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Our support services include the provision of food and beverage for MICE delegates and patrons as well as other walk-in patrons through the restaurant services.

In your career, what moment are you particularly proud of?

Being appointed Hotel General Manager at the age of 27.

And the lowest point of your career?

I prefer not to talk about it.

Flying with fairground

Fair enough! What would you say is the biggest challenge faced by Fairground Holdings in delivering its mandate?

Financial – and mostly coming to the fore now because of the impact of Covid-19 on the business.

How can these challenges be overcome?

Introducing complimentary services and products to the core mandate to raise funds not only to meet short term financial obligations but also to enable future capital investments.

Also, partnering with other entities to expand and augment our product offerings with the aim of expanding business, revenue base by venturing into new and additional business offerings.

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So exactly how did the pandemic affect your operations?

We lost a considerable amount of contracted business especially in the space of exhibitions and expos.

Our core business was heavily affected.

Our food and beverage operations were also affected wherein shrinkage in patronage was realised.

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We had to halt plans for refurbishments and other projects for the period.

Post the pandemic, our business has come back in a different form with more online than physical meetings – as is to be expected – and less volumes for meetings and conferences due to the continuance of social distancing while cost or servicing such groups have significantly grown.

How did you survive?

Because of our large conference facilities, we were able to adhere to Covid-19 Protocols – accommodate small groups in different rooms – aggressively transitioned to and hosting Lifestyle events.

Are we going to see the Botswana Consumer Fair returning this year?

Yes! The Fair will be held on Monday 29th August – Sunday 4th September.

What new additions should we expect?

The Traders Hub is the new addition to the Botswana Consumer Fair.

It will highlight and promote one of the Fair’s major objectives, which is to stimulate buying and selling of locally manufactured goods within the country’s major value chains.

The decision to introduce this product was prompted by the realisation that the Botswana Consumer Fair exhibitor profile is dominated by service providers, leaving very little opportunity for buying and selling at the Fair.

Some of the value chains considered include: arts and crafts, horticulture, food processing, apparels, furniture jewellery, leather and leather products, IT and electronic equipment, as well as beef and beef products.

The Traders Hub will be provided prominence at the Fair by affording it the most strategic location right in front of Ditshupo Hall and will be branded accordingly.

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While we are planning to mobilise organisations that are custodians of SMMEs and large enterprises to sponsor these businesses to participate, the main focus will be to see the individual brands of the businesses illuminated at the Fair so that beyond the Consumer Fair, consumers can align directly with such brands.

And what motivated all this?

Traders Hub Vision is providing local brands with market access by linking them with buyers and value chain participants.

Therefore it aims to provide a platform for local producers to sell their products over a seven-day period, to provide an opportunity for local producers to amplify their products and brands and to build capacity and create an opportunity for buying and selling at the Botswana Consumer Fair.

What Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives have Fairground Holdings embarked on?

Over the years and currently we are supporting several entities, mainly communities in our locality such the Babusi Community Development Ward in Bontleng, Hospitality and Tourism Entities and Institutions, as well as NGOs such Ramotswa School of Deaf, Holly Cross Hospice, Melody Gospel TV Show and the Botswana Red Cross just to mention a few.

We also support youth related projects, especially in the Creative Space, by availing space for their use and promotion of their initiatives.

Are there any plans to expand Fairground Holdings beyond its current footprint?

We are working on ensuring we optimally use all our available assets and products before we can fully explore expansion to other localities.

We are, however, aware of available opportunities to host events and exhibitions in other parts of the country, as such we can expand our intellectual property (trade secrets and expertise) to other areas of the country – this is a quick win.

On a personal note, away from the office, how do you relax?

We travel extensively as a family.

I enjoy spending time with my friends, entertaining and cooking for family and friends, and an occasional attendance to local events.

Flying with fairground

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