Q&A: Exceeding Expectation

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What are your thoughts on the current state of the African hospitality industry?

It is taking some strain due to world economic pressures, and some areas are struggling with an oversupply of rooms. However, Southern Africa’s business hospitality requirements are in great demand, as there is strong economic growth in the developing countries around us.

How do you survive in a Cape Town market that is, arguably, still over-supplied with hotel rooms? 

Offer value-for-money products and services, and exceed guests’ expectations.

With 55 rooms and 15 suites, does the Twelve Apostles qualify as a boutique hotel? 

Yes, definitely, due to the size of the building, the public areas, the inimitable décor within the suites and public areas, along with our personalised service, in-house private cinema, the fact that it is family owned and run, and the attention to detail – our slogan is “no request too large, no detail too small”.

If so, what’s the key to making a success of a boutique hotel? 

Taking care of our guests, from the first enquiry. Thereafter, it’s collecting all information pertaining to their preferences for food, beverages and cushions, through to the welcome. We strive to ensure that our guests feel as though they are “visiting a private home”, anticipate their needs and assist wherever possible.

Is the term, ‘boutique hotel’ thrown around a bit loosely, and too often? 

Most definitely. I believe it is as widely misused as the word “luxury” or “5 or 6 stars”.

In your opinion, what do business travellers look for in a hotel? 

Efficient service from the front desk and in the food and beverage outlets, with healthy and well-balanced food offerings, modern and well-equipped meeting or conference rooms, up-to-date wireless LAN (preferably complimentary), excellent IT equipment, and gym facilities which are at least equivalent to what they experience back home.

What challenges does the African hotel market face in the coming years? 

Remaining competitive in terms of technology, operating in a much ‘greener’ manner and gaining access to skilled and professionally-trained hospitality labour.

How do you, as a niche property, combat the threat posed by large hotel groups who are able to offer corporate discounted rates for loyalty? 

We too reward our largest regular supporters with corporate rates.

Is your clientele more international or predominantly African?

About 55% South African, 3% African, 42% rest of the world. Of the local support, approximately 25% are business visitors.

What are some of the more recent introductions at the Twelve Apostles that you feel meet the needs of the modern, high-end traveller? 

Upgraded with the best IT support and connections, recent individually decorated rooms and suites, a spacious luxurious Presidential Suite with inter-leading room facilities, luxury individual transfer services, helicopter services from the premises, upgraded gym facilities and brand new spectacular spa and treatment facilities, 24-hour in-room or restaurant dining, as well as fine dining facilities and modern, well-equipped conference facilities and catering.

What are your thoughts on the South African hotel grading system? 

I believe the SA grading system needs to be revitalised, modernised, updated and internationalised, in terms of measuring overall standards achieved and provided, and I believe it has a role to play in categorising different hotel types.

What can African hotels learn from their counterparts in, say, Europe, the United States and Asia? 

In some instances, I believe hotels in particular in Europe and USA can actually learn from African hotels, especially in terms of genuine friendliness and warmth. On the other hand, we can learn from their latest hotel designs, F&B concepts, training systems and programmes, increasing professionalism in the hospitality trade and more.

Does the Twelve Apostles have plans in the pipeline for any further development?   

Due to building constraints, physical developments on the premises are restricted. We certainly would like to develop our already considerable contribution to a further ‘greening’ of the operation, as well as maintaining the technological developments that our business and leisure visitors have come to expect.