Tony Rubin joined the Maropeng family as Managing Director in 2007. At the time he was running a small beverages company with one of his two sons and enjoying a semi-retired lifestyle.
Tony was approached by Maropeng because of his background – he was a successful and experienced Hotelier. The chance to do something different persuaded him to join Maropeng.
“I was impressed by the excitement that surrounds Maropeng. I felt that it was something different within the hospitality field. I would be looking after people, as I always have, but here was something of historical value and a World Heritage Site – things that go beyond hospitality,” says Tony.
Tony was raised in Johannesburg and educated at Pretoria Boys’ High School, before entering the hospitality and tourism field as a trainee manager with Boulevard Hotels in 1969. After a number of years at the Bulawayo Sun and Karos Hotel group, Tony joined the Holiday Inn/Southern Sun group, where he would remain until 2000. He then joined Global Resorts as the General Manager of Hotel Operations, where he oversaw the implementation of standards, staff training and the opening of the five-star Emperor Hotel and three-star Senator Hotel.
After a brief return to Southern Sun in 2002 and a term as CEO of the Dainfern Residential and Golf Estate in 2003, he was ready to slow down slightly, so he joined his son Bernard in a family beverage business until he received the offer to join Maropeng.
Tony believes that “good management is good manners”. He describes how he made a conscious decision to foster a feeling of family at Maropeng to make it a great place to work.
“I believe you need to show people respect, no matter what their designation is. You need to listen to them, greet them and recognise their abilities. It’s difficult to single out special achievers. Our management team is excellent. Our hotel team too. Every department is great. I am proud to be associated with the whole special team,” says Tony.
Richard Flack Davison, now based at the Sandton Convention Centre, was previously Technical Services Manager at Maropeng. He describes Tony as full of fun and a “no nonsense, straight down the line” kind of manager.
“Tony is always cracking a joke. He takes a personal interest in all his staff. I think he is a great leader,” says Richard.
Richard goes on to describe a practical joke he played on Tony. He cut slits in the waterproof waders Tony wore when inspecting the water-filled track for the boat ride.
“When he came out his clothes were soaked, but he took the joke well and laughed it off happily,” says Richard.
Tony is excited about the changes happening at Maropeng, particularly the new website, which he describes as a powerful tool, and the forthcoming online ticketing facility. He also wants to update parts of the exhibitions in the coming years to ensure they evolve in line with people’s expectations. He has set a goal of increasing Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves visitor numbers to 300 000 in 2009 – a target he describes as “great growth”, achievable through dedication and hard work.
He works closely with Marketing Manager Erica Saunders; they plan to increase visitor numbers and awareness of Maropeng in the general public.
“Working with Tony is an absolute privilege. He is an incredible man who provides you with the support to climb mountains. I could not do a lot of what I do without this wise and patient man. He is a very good leader,” says Erica.
Tony is also a proud family man, married to his wife Denise for almost 36 years, father of two sons and “gramps” to a seven-year-old girl and four-year-old boy.
“Tony is an absolute peach of a parent. He discovered a great gift in himself for being a holistic parent; one who not only assisted in Bernard and Paul’s every day’s needs but helps with the dishes,” says Denise.
“They love Maropeng,” he says of his family. “My wife thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread. She likes to get lost in the wilderness out here. She finds it tranquil and quiet. She likes to just sit on the deck and chill.”
The grandchildren love it too. Tony describes how at first his grandson was anxious about the boat ride and the dark cavern the boat sails into, but when he got through it he wanted to go again.
Of his youngest critics he says: “They make you face harsh realities, but the fact is they enjoy it and want to come back again and again.
“I love being here. I love the opportunity I have been given,” says Tony.
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