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At the Park Inn hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, one-third of the staff members are deaf. They have obtained a new chance in their work life, higher self-esteem and a better income. The hotel receives good reviews on TripAdvisor.

There is a Park Inn hotel at the foot of the Table Mountain in Cape Town. Nothing unusual about that. However, what separates this Park Inn hotel from other hotels is that one-third of the staff members are deaf.

A new concept in Africa

Carlson Rezidor runs the hotel in Cape Town and has been present in Africa for many years. Today, it runs more than 25 hotels across the continent. The hotels operate under different brands, and the Park Inn concept is a colourful and dynamic mid-scale brand.

The concept of hiring deaf people has never been tested in Africa, and the idea comes from the Deaf Federation of South Africa. They own the land where the hotel is located and have therefore been able to influence the operating contract entered into with Carlson Rezidor. Financing has been provided by IDC and Afrinord, which is a fund established by Rezidor and a number of Nordic development finance institutions, including IFU.

“We are very proud of the hotel and the concept of hiring deaf people”

Brendon Hart, Director of Sales & Marketing

Not only back office

The intention is that 40 per cent of the staff should be deaf. So far, it is one-third, but the hotel is working on developing the staff and work functions so more of them can be carried out by deaf people. It is part of the strategy that deaf staff should not only be employed in back office functions. Therefore, they are working in all functions at the hotel, including security, housekeeping, kitchen, restaurant, reservations and conference arrangements.

The Carlson Rezidor Group has handled the recruitment process. None of the deaf staff members had previous experience with working in the hotel sector and have therefore received intensive training. Hearing staff members have also received training in working together with deaf people.

– Yes, it has been more costly employing deaf staff, but the benefits outweigh the cost, said Brendon Hart.

 I am proud 

Dale Holmes, one of the deaf staff members, who is working as a meeting and events manager, likes his job at Park Inn:

– Ten years ago I looked for a job in the hotel sector, but it was impossible to find. Now I have worked here since the beginning, and it has been a very good experience. I am very proud of myself, and I have not met any negative reactions from our guests.

The project of hiring deaf people to do normal jobs at Park Inn has been an eye-opener for many, and other hotels are now copying the concept.

– In South Africa around 70-80 per cent of deaf people are unemployed and therefore only have a small state benefit to live on. At Park Inn they get a salary that is at least three times as high, which give them a boost in self-confidence as well as much better living conditions, said Jabaar Cassiem Mohamed, who is Province Director at DeafSA, Western Cape.

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