Q&A: Growth and Innovation

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Kerzner International is a developer and operator of destination resorts, casinos and luxury resorts. It has its roots in South Africa, but the bulk of its growth and development have taken place away from the African continent, save for three of its existing 10 properties. Now it appears to be looking closely, once again, at Africa, with CEO Alan Leibman revealing that there may well be a new Kerzner International property or two in Africa in the near future.

Q: What is the Kerzner International view on Africa?

A: Our company was born in Africa and so much of that DNA was developed there. The idea of a true entertainment destination resort began with Sun City and has continued with Atlantis in Dubai and the Bahamas. We were thrilled to return to Africa with One&Only Cape Town in South Africa in 2009. We also introduced Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in Morocco, a gaming destination in North Africa.

Q: Can we expect new Kerzner International properties in Africa in 2014?

A: We are strategically growing the brand and would love to have another property in Africa, if there is the right opportunity.  

Q: What do you have in the pipeline?

A: Over the last 18 months we have announced four new resorts being developed — One&Only properties in Montenegro, Jeddah and Sanya in China, as well as an Atlantis in Sanya. We will also be assuming management of the iconic Hayman Resort on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and it will be reborn as One&Only Hayman Island in July.

Q: What are the new African hotspots?

A: Africa has always been important to us and I think a lot of opportunity exists. The continued growth of wealth creation in East African cities is an interesting story, and the East Coast has some beautiful destinations where I think opportunity for both business and leisure travellers exists. I would love to also see a property in West Africa. South Africa, where Kerzner’s roots lie, still offers opportunity for further growth.

Q: Will Kerzner International continue to focus on luxury hotel properties, or could there be a change in strategy embracing, perhaps, a more business travel focus?

A: Whilst we have historically always focused on resort destinations, I would love to introduce One&Only to major international cities, and in fact, our guests have requested it. Getting that feedback from our guests makes me excited and determined about finding the right city locations to introduce a One&Only city experience.

Q: Post-global financial crisis, have you seen a change in the approach to leisure travel?

A: We opened one of our most successful resorts, Atlantis The Palm in Dubai at the very beginning of the crisis. Even during the financial crisis, people still wanted to travel, to suspend reality for a few days.  That never changed. I think the only change was maybe that there were fewer holidays a year or trips were shorter. That is what keeps it interesting for us – how do we continue to innovate and inspire people to travel? Even at the highest end of the market, at One&Only Resorts, occupancy has remained strong.

Q: How different is the gaming landscape in Africa from that found elsewhere in the world?

A: Gaming has always been part of Kerzner’s operational strength, and I continue to believe that it offers opportunity. In the new markets we continue to monitor in Africa, it is evident that gaming is still very popular.

Q: What role do connectivity and technology play in the Kerzner International offering?

A: This is interesting, as I am often travelling in cities that have the latest and greatest technology. But the thing about technology is that it needs to be user-friendly. No-one wants to come into a hotel and not be able to work the lights or the blackout shades because it is so ‘hi-tech’. We want our guests to have the latest technology and be able to use it with ease. 

Q: What else does the modern day traveller demand that Kerzner International has to make sure it provides?

A: As someone who is constantly travelling, I think that authentic, warm service is still the number one thing travellers want. Holidays are precious to people, as most are short on time. And I actually think there is starting to be a need for a ‘digital detox’ – people actually want to be unplugged on holiday, rather than constantly connected.

Q: What does the long-term future hold for Kerzner International?

A: Kerzner is going to continue to grow and innovate. I look forward to unveiling a few new resorts soon.