Q&A: Personal Investment

The iconic building which now houses the President Hotel has stood at the foot of Cape Town’s Lion’s Head for over a century. Built in 1887 and designed by GM Alexander, it was originally known as the Queen’s Hotel. Over the past century, the building has undergone refurbishments and extensions and was officially opened as the President Hotel on 3 June 1998. The hotel has changed ownership many times over the past 100 years and is now an independent, sectional title hotel. Current General Manager Jeremy Clayton took some time to enlighten Business Traveller Africa about the property.

Q: How has the President Hotel changed over the years, including your more recent renovations?

A: There has been significant change made to our spaces especially over the past 12 months and now in the upcoming 24 months. The hotel is creating unique and inviting spaces with attention on delivering exceptional hospitality experiences, to not only guests but the community at large. For nearly a century the President Hotel was the place to be and be seen. Through investment the hotel is once again driving this ethos and delivering services at the highest standards.

Q: How has the SA hotel industry changed since the hotel opened, and what are your thoughts on its current state?

A: We are pleased with the sector’s growth trend in the past 24 months. Cape Town and South Africa remain prevalent in the international community’s travel plans and Cape Town specifically has been recognised as a must-visit destination. Working directly with SA Tourism and WesGro further enables the hotel to tap into international markets and remain at the forefront of the international hospitality industry.

Q: As the President Hotel is a sectional title hotel development with each room individually owned, what was the thinking behind making this part of the offering and what are the benefits of being an owner?

A: Owners are part of a rental pool scheme which offers numerous benefits. Besides the prestige of owning a fully serviced property in an exclusive neighbourhood, owners receive monthly distributions ensuring strong liquidity with excellent yields. The hotel management actively engages with owners through nominated trustees and report monthly on profitability, the tourism sector and marketing mechanisms as well as the hotel’s forecast. Owners receive 30 nights per year at the hotel at a ‘cost rate’ – about 10% of the normal rate.

Q: How does one become a sectional title owner?

A: The sections are traded through a number of estate agents or through direct contact with the hotel by emailing marketing@presidenthotel.co.za.

Q: Cape Town has become a hotel development hotspot. What are your thoughts on the increased competition?

A: Based on the significant tourism growth, it’s natural for developers and big brands to want to get involved. What I find interesting is that the world is moving away from copy-and-paste products and experiences, especially in the tourism space. The rise of Airbnb and their new creative and cultural packages is evidence that travellers want authenticity in their travels. Many of the large developments are tailoring their offering accordingly.

Q: Do you believe there is the risk of Cape Town becoming over-traded with four and five-star hotels?

A: No. There is currently more of a focus on three-star hotels. The forecast is strong and prices remain affordable for the luxury sector.

Q: What do you believe has been key to Cape Town’s success as a business and leisure travel destination in the last year or so?

A: The opening up of the international routes to Cape Town as a leisure destination has made a big difference. This has grown by 20% year on year. Through the Wesgro travel route initiatives, the airline routes have also grown by 30%. Through these same initiatives and the CTICC, Cape Town has now also become a popular conferencing destination.

Q: What have you done to ensure that the President Hotel is a meetings and events destination of choice in Cape Town?

A: We have invested in the best technology such as fully-automated sound, AV, lighting and AC controls, ceiling mounted NEC HD quality projector with Dual HDMI, motorised screens, high quality Extron speakers installed in the ceiling for voice-lift and high quality sound for presentations and music, LED lighting automated to dim when automatic projection screens are lowered and unlimited hi-speed, free wi-fi. We also have an incredibly strong MICE team.

Q: How important do you believe technology and digitisation are to the modern-day business traveller?

A: Technology is like a drug. People become agitated and perturbed when it’s not readily available. Tor business travellers, it’s almost more important than luxury and the finishes and furnishings in the rooms.

Q: How have the Western Cape water restrictions impacted your business?

A: The restrictions haven’t impacted our business per se, however we have become acutely aware of every litre of water that we use and have implemented a water saving strategy.

Q: Have you come across any international hotel trends recently that you believe are worth noting?

A: There are many products worth noting such as tech automisation, heat generating chillers, drones and fully-automated rooms that will gauge the guest’s mood and preferences. To us technology is the way of the future and we aim to implement all of these features in due course.