Throughout 2020, while many hotel groups paused development, there were hotel chains that chose to boost the hospitality and tourism sectors to create more possibilities for guests.
A nationwide hotel group has emerged from lockdown after a half a billion rand investment bolstering two new-builds and four refurbished properties across South Africa, boosting the tourism sector subsequent to travel restrictions having been lifted.
Premier Hotels & Resorts strategically chose to acquire land in Umhlanga and develop during the pandemic. This is certainly reassuring for the revival of the industry and the securement of jobs.
Its significant R365 million spend covered the construction of two hotels on one precinct high up on Umhlanga Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal. The new builds are a 4-star Premier Hotel Umhlanga with 127 bedrooms designed to maximise the use of its location, with all bedrooms having unrivalled Indian Ocean views and balcony access and a 3-star Premier Splendid Inn Umhlanga that will feature 63 bedrooms, its own 50-seater restaurant along with a spectacular conference centre.
“This marks another milestone as we expand and project the brand’s robust growth in the region, further showcasing the group’s strong commitment to South Africa,” says Samuel Nassimov, MD of one of South Africa’s fastest growing, independently-owned hotel groups, Premier Hotels & Resorts. “Low occupancy rates generated its own set of challenges but we remain optimistic and relentless in finding efficiencies to maximise future opportunities.”
An appetite for travel still definitely exists with business travellers and travel confidence continuously increasing, but corporate travel can only be expected to recover considerably to pre-pandemic levels by June 2022.
Covid-19 has pushed the tourism industry to breaking point. Unfortunately research also indicates that the recovery process may take years still. It is estimated that while the average number of business trips per traveller was 6 to 8 per year in pre-Covid times, this number is forecasted to fall to 3 to 4 trips per annum until the year 2023.
According to Stats SA, income from accommodation decreased by 66,8% year-on-year in November 2020, the result of a 52,7% decrease in the number of stay unit nights sold and a 29,7% decrease in the average income per stay unit sold. The largest decline in income was reported by hotels, down 69,6%.
“Our decision to invest in Umhlanga, even during this difficult time, is testament to the confidence we have in South Africa’s ability to recover economically,” says Nassimov. “The Umhlanga project will position the Premier Group as a firm favourite amongst holiday makers as well as corporate, government and international clientele – as we strive to secure a hotel presence in every major city.”
Premier Umhlanga, a hospitality haven for discerning travellers, boasts a 120-seater restaurant and bar, swimming pool and a flexible fully sub-divisible conference centre, accessible via the 3-star property, catering for up to 300 attendees. It has a magnificent open-air timber view deck with glass balustrade, allowing conference delegates to enjoy views of the surrounding Umhlanga precinct from the 10th floor.
The urban styled, modern and contemporary Premier Splendid Inn Umhlanga will feature 63 bedrooms, its own 50-seater restaurant and conference centre. Guests in this 7-floor hotel are able to access the third floor rooftop pool with main access from the 4-star property.
Premier also acquired two properties in Sandton (Premier Hotel Quartermain and Premier Hotel Falstaff) to renovate during the downturn of business travel.
“We also made significant investments into renovations of two of our resort offerings as well, namely Premier Hotel Roodevalley and Premier Resort Cutty Sark to support the appetite for local travel,” shared Nassimov.
The investment to Cutty Sark, a famous landmark resort in Scottburgh on the KZN South Coast helped to restore it to its former glory so it could reopen in time for the holiday season late last year. It encompassed a complete refurbishment of all 59 sea-facing rooms, adding a further 39 rooms and upgrading furnishings, decor, and equipment. The resort is a completely re-imagined mecca for holiday makers, leisure seekers, conference groups and diving enthusiasts with a dive school that specializes in the Aliwal Shoal Diving Experience.
It now boasts a new swimming pool, outdoor terrace with spectacular views, cocktail pool deck experience, with direct access to the swimming beach – as well as upgraded bars, restaurants and pizza oven, new facades, extensive upgrades to the dining room, foyer and reception areas. The new, modern conference centre opened last month.
“South Africans are now eager to travel locally and explore, looking for ways to reconnect with family and friends in a safe environment,” shares Nassimov. “We are grateful to be welcoming new and returning guests to Premier’s 4 resort properties across the country, and we have taken every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our guests and staff.”
“Last year’s challenging circumstances have driven our appetite to breathe life back into the South African hospitality and tourism industries and these major investments reaffirm our commitment to the sector,” he concludes.
With South Africa listed as a top holiday destination for 2021 there’s still hope that the hospitality industry’s five-year history of being explosive, is set to change.