No room for corporate travellers?

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Have all of South Africa’s hotel groups really inflated their prices for the World Cup? And are there really no rooms available for business travellers during this period? Chana Viljoen investigates.

Media reports and industry speculation has created a perception that business travel will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, during the month of the World Cup. One of the concerns raised was that hotels were excessively raising their prices, and that they were already fully booked.

The Hilton Sandton’s GM, Axel Hauser, said: “Big events always displace business travel.” He explained that the country has been told to step aside during the event, and that at the moment Hilton is advising corporates that the hotel is not bookable for that period. Hauser added that business travellers should try to avoid travelling during that period if they don’t necessarily have to do it, but he believed that inventory would be released closer to the time. “We will monitor the situation, but I believe from past experience that there will be opportunities for availability,” he said.

Similarly, Samuel Nassimov, MD of Premier Hotels, said the World Cup was expected to be a busy period and business travellers could encounter difficulty in travelling, so should aim to conduct all their business prior to or after the World Cup games. Premier Hotels, he explained, had contracted the majority of its rooms to MATCH, but that the group was keeping 25-30% of its rooms for corporate clientele and last-minute bookings. According to MD Kobus Botha, Urban Hip Hotels alerted its corporate clients early last year to the effect that there would be limited availability during the World Cup. As a result, he said, most clients had already planned to adjust their travelling.

Business as usual

Peermont Hotels, said Chief Commerical Officer Mark Jakins, chose to manage its own room inventory, and although Emperors Palace in Johannesburg was already fully booked during the event, some of Peermont’s outlying resorts still had capacity available. Jakins said group and conference booking and requests would be business as usual. “Although some of our hotels are heavily booked during the 2010 World Cup, we are confident we’ll still have space to accommodate guests and remain mindful of our regular visitors and loyal guests who have supported us over the years,” he added.

Philippe Trapp, MD of Accor Hospitality South & East Africa and Indian Ocean, said the group would accommodate corporate travellers during this period. He added, “The only difference will be that we welcome a larger number of guests simultaneously. Due to the high number of guests anticipated, we are constantly in touch with clients in an attempt to secure their reservations early, wherever possible.”

Mike Lambert of Three Cities, said the group would make rooms available to business travellers on their standard contracted rates during the World Cup, based on demand and availability.

According to Danny Bryer, Group Marketing and Revenue Director for Protea Hotels, the booking of pre- and post-tours was negligible. “There is a perception out there that the two weeks preceding and following the World Cup were a no-go for corporate travel – this is not true,” he said. He stressed that corporates shouldn’t have concerns about travelling during that period. “There is availability, and the hotels are accepting corporate travellers as per usual.”

What about pricing?

Botha said that, like Germany during the previous World Cup, most hotels would have last-minute cancellations and/or no-shows, creating availability for last-minute travel requirements. But, he added, travellers would more than likely pay a premium. Hauser said that because Hilton had contracted its rooms to MATCH, the group did not determine the rate its rooms were being sold at to soccer fans. He added that the published hotel rate had to be seen as part of an all-inclusive package for the event, which included airport transfers, transfers to the stadium and back, etc.

Peermont, said Jakins, would soon release special offers to South Africans who wanted to enjoy a break away from the hustle and bustle of football fever. He said: “My best advice would be to shop around for better hotel, airline and car rental offers to get more bang for your buck. Contrary to media reports, not everyone in South Africa is trying to profiteer over this period.”

Plan ahead

“As a result of the pent-up accommodation demand for the event, we encourage business travellers to book well in advance and to potentially assess and adjust dates and travel itinerary around this event,” advised Lambert.

Trapp concluded: “We encourage business travellers who will be seeking accommodation during this period to make their reservations as soon as possible. Apart from that, we encourage them to join us in our celebrations and to embrace the opportunities that the World Cup presents to Africa and its people.”

Making special arrangements

During the World Cup, Southern Sun will be setting up an online booking channel to give availability and allow corporate travellers to book and have immediate confirmation online. Urban Hip Hotels launched a new initiative for 2010, campus2010.com. It offers low budget university campus accommodation for the more budget-conscious traveller.

What’s news? 

Major expansion for City Lodge

City Lodge is opening seven new hotels this year, five of which will be open in time for the World Cup. The five hotels include City Lodge OR Tambo, City Lodge Lynnwood, Road Lodge Southgate, Road Lodge Port Elizabeth Airport and Road Lodge Bloemfontein Airport. After the World Cup, Town Lodge Port Elizabeth and City Lodge Hatfield will be opening. City Lodge Fourways has already opened 100 of its rooms, with the remainder scheduled to open by the end of February. Town Lodge Grayston in Sandton is also getting an additional 70 rooms.

Three Cities to open new boutique hotel

The Square Boutique Hotel & Spa will open in the heart of the Umhlanga during April/May this year. The hotel has 50 sophisticated  rooms with air-conditioning, satellite TV, telephone, Internet and e-mail, mini bar, room safes, fold-out sofas for children under 12 years, and laundry service. The onsite Dish restaurant serves all types of cuisine, à la carte and buffet style, open for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The Square Boutique Hotel & Spa has its very own spa and a compact fitness centre, creating the perfect scenario for ultimate leisure and pampering. It is only a 30-minute drive from Durban International Airport, 20 minutes from the new King Shaka airport, a stone’s throw away from Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Umhlanga and La Lucia office parks, and 15 minutes from Durban central.

Peermont unveils R110m makeover for Tusk Umfolozi

Situated in the heart of the uMhlathuze Region in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, Tusk Umfolozi is undergoing a R110-million transformation to completely change the face of the existing casino. As part of the development, a new Peermont Metcourt hotel with 44 rooms and suites, state-of-the-art conference centre, multi-purpose entertainment and events arena, themed sports bar and outdoor facilities is planned.  In addition, the existing casino interiors will be upgraded and the restaurant will be revamped and enlarged. With the expansion, the resort will take on a completely new identity as the Umfolozi Hotel Casino and Convention Resort.

New hotels on the cards for Protea Hotels

Protea Hotels experienced exponential growth in 2009 with the opening of a number of new hotels throughout Africa. Some of the hotels that opened include Protea Hotel Willow Lake, Protea Hotel Umhlanga Ridge, Protea Hotel Hilton and Protea Hotel OR Tambo. Two more properties were opened in Nigeria – Protea Hotel Ikeja and Protea Hotel Ikoyi Westwood – bringing the number of hotels in that country to 11. The Protea Hotel Moon Mountain Lodge opened towards the end of last year as well. Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! was expanded last year, and this year will see the opening of Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! – Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

Revamp for Madikwe River Lodge

The Madikwe River Lodge, located in the North West Province is set for a major refurbishment over the next five months. The revamp will consist of the demolishing of the existing bathrooms, transformed with the addition of an open view window as well as new bathroom fittings and fixtures. The bedrooms will undergo their own mini revamp with the addition of new softs and the repainting of the internal and exterior of the rooms. Light fittings and new wall prints will also be allocated to each room.  Leaving no scope for error in creating this new piece of paradise, the exterior deck used by visitors daily will also get a sprinkle of freshness, with the addition of new chairs and tables.

Rezidor Extends Partnership Agreement with Mvelaphanda Holdings

The Rezidor Hotel Group, operating under the brand names of Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Hotel Missoni, Regent and Country Inn, has extended its partnership agreement with Mvelaphanda Holdings. The existing joint venture covers the management of the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Cape Town but will be extended to all existing and future Rezidor hotels in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and will cover all five Rezidor hotel brands.

The properties include Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Cape Town (177 rooms); Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton, Johannesburg (301 rooms); Radisson Blu Hotel Port Elizabeth (173 rooms); Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, Sandton Johannesburg (215 rooms, opening in 2010); Park Inn Sandton, Johannesburg (273 rooms, opening in 2010); Hotel Missoni Cape Town (154 rooms, opening in 2011), and Radisson Blu Hotel Blaauwberg, Cape Town (140 rooms, opening in 2010).

Hotel Formula 1 launches new design

Hotel Formula 1 has introduced its second ‘cocoon’ concept room at the Formula 1 Hotel Durban. The unique concept introduces soft colours, rounded shapes and lighting that creates a soothing ambience. This, along with the new reception and breakfast areas mark a new wave and era for Hotel Formula 1. Zahra Peera, Managing Director at Hotel Formula 1 Group, said: “In launching the cocoon concept rooms, it was important to utilise the space in the best possible way, providing the features that customers want, such as flat-screen TVs, within a cosy, yet spacious room.”

Two more hotels for African Pride

Protea Hotels’ superior de luxe hotel offering, African Pride hotels, recently added two five-star hotels to its portfolio. 15 on Orange opened as part of the Cape Town inner city regeneration effort. It features ultra-spacious suites and unparalleled public areas. It is just minutes away from Cape Town’s major tourist attractions. Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa opened barely 10 km out of Cape Town in the satellite retail, business and residential hub of Century City. It is aimed at the discerning business traveller, offering unique bedrooms and stellar conferencing facilities.