The capital of South Africa’s smallest province, Gauteng, Johannesburg is where it all happens for the country’s business travellers. Not only is it the largest city in South Africa, but Johannesburg is also one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. While Johannesburg is not one of South
Africa’s three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court. Much of the financial activity takes place in and around the Sandton district in the north of Johannesburg. Sandton features many of the big banks and associated corporates, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, a host of hotels, restaurants and bars, a Gautrain station, the huge Sandton City shopping centre, and Nelson Mandela Square. Much of Johannesburg’s corporate business has moved out of the CBD, which is located in the south, although some do still retain their offices, and there are pockets of rejuvenation taking place, such as in Newtown, where City Lodge has opened a hotel.
Rosebank is one of the ‘nodes’ that is benefiting from a reduced interest in the CBD, and it is situated between town and Sandton. It also has a Gautrain station, a large re-vamped shopping centre, and quality hotels. Standard Bank moved one of its offices from the CBD to Rosebank. That being said, Johannesburg, like many metropolises, has more than one CBD, including, but not limited to, Sandton, Rosebank and Roodepoort (West Rand) in addition to the original CBD. Some tend to include Benoni and Germiston as well. Mining was the foundat ion of the Witwatersrand’s economy, but its importance is gradually declining due to dwindling reserves, and service and manufacturing industries have become more significant to the city’s economy.
While gold mining no longer takes place within the city limits, most mining companies still have their headquarters in Johannesburg. The city’s manufacturing industries extend across a range of areas and there is still a reliance on heavy industries including steel and cement plants. Other industries include banking, IT, real estate, transport, broadcast and print media, private health care, and a vibrant leisure and consumer retail market. The JSE is Africa’s largest stock exchange and it has moved out of the CBD. Due to its commercial role, the city is the seat of the provincial government and the site of a number of government branch off ices, as well as consular off ices and other institutions.
BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS
No surprise to hear that there was plenty of change on the Johannesburg business travel scene in 2017. In February, Emirates’ A380 aircraft returned to South African skies for the start of a scheduled service between Dubai and Johannesburg. The city became Emirates’ 46th destination in its global network to which it flies the double decker aircraft. The A380 offers a total of 516 seats in a three class cabin configuration, with 14 private suites in first class, 76 mini pods with lie-flat seats in business class, and 426 seats in economy class. Also beefing up its A380 offering was British Airways. May saw the airline announce that it would be adding 680 seats a week to Johannesburg by operating an all-A380 service.
Further to that, there was an announcement regarding BA’s programme of lounge investment, which was to include a revamp of the airline’s lounge at O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg. In June, Signature Lux Hotels opened its first hotel in South Africa and Africa – in the heart of the Golden Mile in Sandton. The progressive hotel chain is targeting tech-savvy millennials and business travellers with its four-star finishes and quality connectivity, with social hubs for enhanced networking opportunities. Moving to the TMC space where Johannesburg-headquartered Duma Travel announced its partnership with global travel management giant UNIGLOBE. The two parties are now working together to grow the UNIGLOBE brand in Africa, with Duma targeting small and medium-sized travel agencies throughout sub-Saharan African. UNIGLOBE has more than 600 partners across 60 countries, and agencies that join gain access to a global brand, business-boosting technologies, training to international standards and a global hotel programme with 38,000 properties in 6,000 cities. On the hotel side of things, August saw the announcement that Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre – in close proximity to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport – had unveiled its new on-site restaurant. It is called Phomolong and its decor is a modern take on traditional African design, including a rustic thatch roof with wooden decking, contemporary furniture and a modern open kitchen. In September, Comair Limited announced the launch of SLOW XS, a new lounge at Lanseria International Airport to the north-west of Johannesburg. SLOW XS is the latest addition to the suite of existing SLOW Lounge experiences across South Africa. It opened at Lanseria’s domestic terminal and will be exclusively available to qualifying kulula.com, FNB, RMB and Comair Limited VIP guests.
The SLOW XS concept has been specifically designed to address the discerning traveller’s need for dedicated transit spaces within smaller airport environments, such as Lanseria. It was a bus y year for Lanseria International, with November seeing the unveiling of a new control tower at the airport. The new complex offers the capacity required to meet increased passenger and aircraft traffic demand. It accommodates air traffic and navigation services, South African weather services and aerodrome rescue and fire-fighting services. There was also plenty happening at Johannesburg’s other main airport, O.R. Tambo International. In October there was the announcement that it had opened a new passenger link for international passengers between Terminal A and the central terminal building, in order to ease congestion at the main security and emigration checkpoints.
Passengers checking in at Terminal A will now be able to avoid joining queues at Terminal A’s security and emigration processing points. In the events space, the Gauteng province was announced as the successful bidder to host South African Tourism’s strategic business events trade show, Meetings Africa, for the next five years, following a comprehensive bidding process. The decision meant that for the next five years Meetings Africa will be hosted by the Gauteng Tourism Authority and the Johannesburg Convention Bureau at the Sandton Convention Centre, annually in February. In November, aha Hotels & Lodges unveiled its new of fering at its Lesedi Cultural Village property, just down the road from Lanseria International Airport. The group invested R3.2million ($233,000) in rebuilding the dance theatre after it was destroyed in a runaway veld fire in 2016. The amphitheatre now offers a more enhanced cultural experience, with a capacity of 300.
South Africa has 10 international airports, the major one being O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg, which is the main gateway to South Africa. This state-of-the-art airport has the capacity to handle up to 28 million passengers annually and provides connections to most regional airports from here. The airport is 22 kilometres east of Johannesburg and access to the city is quickest via the Gautrain, which is a modern rapid rail transport system that links the airport with Pretoria, Sandton, Rosebank and the city centre. For travellers coming through international arrivals, just make sure you keep right out of the exit doors and look for the Gautrain signs.
Purchasing a card is straightforward and will cost you approximately $1. Thereafter, it’ll cost you in the region of $10 for each leg to and from Sandton, which is about 12 minutes away from the airport. For travellers coming through domestic arrivals, again, keep right out of the exit doors and follow the signs for the Gautrain. In terms of lounges, there are a number of airline-specific business class lounges at O.R. Tambo International. It has a host of international departure lounges, in the form of the Virgin Atlantic, Air France, British Airways, Bidvest Premier, SAA (Baobab and Cycad) and Emirates international lounges. SAA also has an arrivals lounge. ORTIA is also home to Menzies Aviation’s Shongololo Lounge, which is used by a number of airlines. In terms of domestic lounges, SAA has one at ORTIA, whilst the airport also features lounges from Bidvest (two) and Menzies Aviation (Mashonza). The other lounges worth looking out for, particularly if you are a First National Bank customer (access via bank card –sometimes for a fee, depending on the state of your bank account and number of times you visit in a month), are the SLOW lounges at ORTIA. Passengers also have access to the Bidvest Premier Lounges at ORTIA. Domest ic lounge entry costs $17 and international lounge entry costs $27. All lounges provide complimentary light meals and snacks, beverages, newspapers and magazines, TV and wi-fi. Bidvest Premier also opened a new lounge at Lanseria International Airport in 2016.
Speaking of Lanseria International, it is located to the north-west of Johannesburg, and has emerged as a popular choice for business travellers living in the north of Johannesburg, particularly as there are a good selection of flights to destinations such as Cape Town and Durban. Lanseria is also the focal point for South Africa’s private aviation industry, and is home to the likes of ExecuJet, National Airways Corporation, and Comair Flight Services. Other airports in the greater Johannesburg region include Rand Airport and Grand Central Airport. Rand Airport, located in Germiston, is a small airfield used mostly for private aircraft and is the home of South African Airways’ first Boeing 747 Classic, the Lebombo, which is now an aviation museum. Grand Central is located in Midrand and also caters to small, private aircraft.
As you would expect, Johannesburg has a host of international hotel brands, and a fair number of them clustered in the main business district of Sandton, which is approximately 20 minutes from the CBD and about half an hour from O.R. Tambo International Airport, depending on traffic. There’s a five-star Hilton property in Sandton, and the group also has hotels in Durban (adjacent to the city’s main convention centre) and Cape Town (smaller, with a boutique-type feel). Also in Sandton are two Radisson Blu hotels, including the Radisson Blu Gautrain, which is ideally positioned opposite the local Gautrain station. The greater hotel building also has a SLOW business lounge on the bottom floor, which can be accessed for a fee.
There’s also a Park Inn by Radisson in Sandton, so Carlson Rezidor has a significant presence in this business-focused area of Johannesburg. Another international group with a presence in Johannesburg is Accor, through its midscale Mercure brand. They have three properties, but none in Sandton. Instead, the Bedfordview hotel to the east of the city provides easy access to the airport, whilst the Midrand hotel bridges the gap between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the Randburg property taps into the West Rand market. Holiday Inn has four properties in Johannesburg – in Rosebank, Rivonia Road (Sandton), at the airport, and in Woodmead – whilst InterContinental, also part of the IHG group, has the five-star Johannesburg Sandton Towers and the five-star property at O.R. Tambo Airport. Completing the IHG presence in Johannesburg is the Crowne Plaza Johannesburg – The Rosebank, a corporate travel-focused property that has built a good reputation and sees a lot of repeat business.
In terms of O.R. Tambo International Airport, the general area around it is dotted with hotels across the star range, whilst a short drive away is the Peermont offering, in the form of the five-star D’Oreale Grande at Emperors Palace, which is also home to the group’s four-star Mondior, three-star Metcourt and three-star Metcourt Suites properties. The D’Oreale Grande is exceptional, if you’re looking for a five-star hotel in close proximity to the airport. In the same Kempton Park area is arguably the country’s biggest conferencing offering, in the form of the Birchwood Hotel & O.R. Tambo Conference Centre. Overall it has 665 rooms, but also some products specifically targeted at the business traveller, with Silverbirch a more premium offering and ValuStay an option for the more budget conscious business traveller.
On top of that, there are a good selection of restaurants to choose from. Also out on the East Rand, but in close enough proximity to Johannesburg, is aha Hotels & Lodges’ Kopanong Hotel & Conference Centre in Benoni. It’s beautifully maintained in a country estate, with comfortable accommodation, a great food and beverage offering, and inviting conference facilities. From a local brand point of view, it’s significant that Sun International now has a ‘business hotel’ presence in Johannesburg – more specifically Sandton – with The Maslow opening in early 2013. Sun International does, though, still have a strong presence in the gaming world, with Carnival City to the east of Johannesburg, the Morula Sun and Carousel to the north of Pretoria, and its flagship Sun City property in the North-West Province, with adjacent Palace of the Lost City. Looking at the other big local brands, Tsogo Sun Hotels, Protea Hotels (a Marriott brand) and City Lodge are the groups with a big presence, as has Legacy Hotels & Resorts, which is strong in the Sandton area.
Tsogo Sun has 27 properties in the greater Johannesburg area, but that includes the two InterContinentals already mentioned, the Holiday Inn in Sandton, and the Crowne Plaza in Rosebank, all of which the group owns. Tsogo Sun’s Johannesburg por t folio includes three properties in the Montecasino entertainment complex to the north of Johannesburg, with the five-star Palazzo Hotel the flagship there. Then there’s the four hotels at the airport (InterContinental, Southern Sun, Garden Court and SUN1) and seven in and around the Sandton node, including the five-star refurbished Sandton Sun, the five-star Southern Sun Hyde Park, the InterContinental adjacent to Sandton Convention Centre, and two Garden Court properties. Tsogo Sun, though, will be happy that it has a presence in Rosebank (10 minutes from Sandton), with the luxurious 54 on Bath, which was previously The Grace. One of Tsogo Sun’s budget brands, StayEasy, has just two properties in Gauteng, in Pretoria and Eastgate, whilst in the same category, 2013 saw Tsogo Sun rebrand its Formula 1 hotels as SUN1 hotels, of which there are a host of around the country.
There are eight Protea Hotels properties in and around Johannesburg, including two at O.R. Tambo International Airport. But, perhaps the hotels to stand out among those are the two Melrose Arch properties, which are excellent options, should you be doing business in the area, Rosebank, Sandton or the CBD. The Melrose Arch Hotel – under the African Pride brand – claims it makes the best cappuccino in the city, whilst the Fire&Ice! property has a sister hotel in Menlyn, Pretoria. The City Lodge Hotel Group consists of one-star Road Lodges, two-star Town Lodges, three-star City Lodges and fourstar Courtyard Hotels. The group has 54 properties across South Africa, including the following in Johannesburg: three Courtyards, eight City Lodges, four Town Lodges and seven Road Lodges. So, 22 properties in the greater Johannesburg area for this group. Legacy Hotels & Resorts’ footprint in the Sandton area includes quality properties in the form of the five-star Michelangelo, DAVINCI Hotel & Suites, Michelangelo Towers, and Raphael Penthouse Suites.
These are suited to the premium business traveller who wants to be in the heart of Sandton, on the doorstep of the big shopping mall, Sandton City, or adjacent to the Sandton Convention Centre. One of the smaller South African groups – Premier Hotels & Resorts – has a couple of properties in Johannesburg, with one hotel situated at the airport and one in Midrand, giving them a good cross-section of business, without having to compete with the big international brands in the Sandton node. From a boutique hotel perspective, two properties stand out – the Saxon and Fairlawns – with both situated within a few minutes’ drive of Sandton City, either side of it. The Saxon is arguably the premier boutique hotel in Johannesburg and possibly South Africa, and is where the late Nelson Mandela wrote his memoirs. Just a short drive up the road, opposite the Johannesburg Zoo, is the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg, which boasts arguably the best view in the city from its elevated terrace.
Four Seasons did significant work to the old Westcliff property before re-opening at the end of 2014, with some stunning dining options now on offer, in the form of Flames, View, The Cellar Door, and the Westcliff Deli, which is a clever addition that even local residents can access. The hotel is situated just 5-10 minutes from the Johannesburg CBD and encourages its guest to explore this side of the city, whilst also acting as a link between the hotel property and the CBD. A notch down the star scale, Faircity has three properties – all in the three and fourstar range, with one in the Johannesburg CBD and two in Sandton – Falstaff and Quatermain. Interesting that Faircity has that CBD presence, as not many of the other big groups do, although there is Hotel Lamunu – previously a Lonrho Hotels property – in De Korte Street. Orion Hotels has The Devonshire, which is well situated in Braamfontein, should you want access to the CBD. The Rosebank node, about 10 minutes’ drive from Sandton, has a good selection of quality hotels, with the Hyatt Regency, the Holiday Inn, City Lodge’s Courtyard, 54 on Bath, Mantis Collection’s Monarch Hotel, Crowne Plaza Johannesburg – The Rosebank, and the Clico Boutique Hotel, which has a good reputation and has an intimate conferencing offering.
Also in the area are The Capital Hotel Group, which consists of four Sandton-based properties together with The Capital On Bath in Rosebank. The group offers standard hotel rooms, fully-furnished serviced apartments and modern conference facilities across the three, four and five-star segments. Lastly, should you find yourself looking for a smaller boutique property in the areas of Hyde Park, Craighall, or Parkhurst – about 15 minutes’ from Sandton – then make sure you consider The Hamilton, The Parkwood, Ten Bompas and The Peech Hotel, which is a short drive away just behind the Wanderers Club. If you’re flying in and out of Lanseria International Airport to the north-west of Johannesburg, you may want to consider Misty Hills Country Hotel in the Muldersdrift area. It has a ‘country’ feel to it and provides a welcome relief from city life, along with playing host to the famous Carnivore Restaurant.