Contributor Profile

Gillian Saunders

Job TitleIndependent Tourism & Hospitality Advisor


Gillian Saunders is an Independent Tourism and Hospitality Adviser.

From April 2018 to May 2019 Gillian was Special Advisor to the then Tourism Minister; Minister Derek Hanekom. 

Prior to that, until mid-2018 she was Deputy CEO of Audit Tax and Advisory Firm, Grant Thornton in Johannesburg, and head of their Advisory Services in South Africa. Gillian’s client facing expertise while at Grant Thornton was consulting to the hospitality, tourism and leisure industries and she has a long track record, of more than 30 years in her speciality area.   

In 2012 Gillian was appointed Global Sector Leader, Hotels and Tourism for Grant Thornton and she led a team of experts in various fields related to the industry from over 25 countries. Gillian has consulted extensively in all aspects of these industries for the public and private sector throughout Africa.  Her work includes tourism destination and tourism marketing strategies and plans, and working on many aspects of feasibility, market development, economic and social impacts across the industry including for hotel and tourism accommodation, conference and exhibition industry, air-routes, airports, attractions, and more.    

Prior to consulting she worked in the industry in Europe and South Africa, with stints with EUREST (a contract catering subsidiary of Nestle and Wagon Lits), in France, and with Sheraton in Germany and Switzerland, before joining the Southern Sun Group in South Africa in 1982. 

Gillian has a BSc Hotel Catering and Tourism Administration (Surrey 1981) and an MBA (Wits 1988 cum Laude). 

Gillian is the author of a number of articles and a regular commentator in the media on many issues related to Tourism and Hospitality. 

She is a member (and previous chairperson) of the board of the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality and is passionate about education and education in the Hospitality and Tourism sector.

Gillian was recently honoured with a President’s Award from the Chef’s Association of South Africa for making an incredible, far-reaching impact on South Africa’s culinary, hospitality and tourism industries over more than 25 years.  


Conference Sessions

  • Cities: Tourism, Sustainability & Resilience

    Tuesday12:45 - 13:455 Nov 2019
    Americas Inspiration Zone

    Tourism to cities is booming, facilitated by budget airlines and the increasing popularity of city breaks, particularly amongst millennials. Increasingly DMOs a...

    • Language: English

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