Q&A: Legacy – Ever the optimist

Late last year Legacy Hotels & Resorts signed an agreement with African Sun which provides for the management of five strategic properties in Zimbabwe - Elephant Hills Resort, The Kingdom at Victoria Falls, Hwange Safari Lodge, Troutbeck Resort and Monomotapa Hotel. Under Legacy’s management it is planned to refurbish these properties and to develop tourism as a whole in Zimbabwe. There are expectations of recovery in the Zimbabwean economy and entering into this agreement will position Legacy to take full advantage this development. Hara Jackson, Group Sales Manager at Legacy, gives an update on the hotels’ refurbs and gives insight into doing business in Africa.

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Q: What’s the latest on your refurbishment and management of the African Sun properties announced in 2015?

A: The exterior at Elephant Hills has been painted, and thatching has been replaced. Food and beverage offerings have also been reinvented by the new Executive Chef. The entertainment centre at the Kingdom at Victoria Falls has been closed for a refurbishment and will be opened later this year. Further plans for refurbishments will be finalised within the near future.

Q: What’s Legacy Hotels view on Zimbabwe and its future potential as a business travel destination?

A: Harare, as with any capital city on the African continent, remains key for business travellers. Development opportunities exist, as well as regional, diplomatic and government travel – which remains important to travel into this region. Monomotapa Hotel is perfectly located in the heart of the business district in Harare to accommodate business travellers.

Q: How have you found the operating climate in Zimbabwe and how does it differ to doing business in South Africa?

A: It has been challenging as Zimbabwe tries to stabilise its economic future, and implement plans to grow its market share for business and leisure tourism. And yet the country has so many positives, including the friendliness, willingness, and hospitable nature of Zimbabwean people.

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of operating a 5-star hotel in Africa?

A: The five-star label is synonymous with luxury, quality and impeccable standard, and the challenges are ensuring these aspects are met daily through food and beverage offerings and amenities which may need to be imported.

Q: Does the Sandton, Johannesburg, area remain Legacy’s focus, or is the group now adopting a more diverse view?

A: Although Legacy’s stronghold is Sandton, it is definitely not the only focus. Legacy’s plan has always been to expand in key leisure and business destinations on the African continent.

Q: What’s the latest on The Leonardo in Sandton?

A: The Leonardo is set to become the most exclusive address in Sandton. Standing at an impressive 150 metres high, the building will comprise 200 apartments, including eight penthouses plus The Leonardo Suite which is over 2800m2. There will also be nine floors of offices. Building has begun on site and construction is expected to take 30 months to complete.

Q: What is your view on the depreciation of the Rand and the impact on your business?

A: This has definitely allowed international travellers to spend more fluidly on additional items within the hotels such as spa visits, and restaurant offerings. We have also seen an increase in international travel to some areas in South Africa such as Cape Town and the Pilanesberg, where the market is growing once again. Locally there is still a sensitivity to price, and hotels are being asked to negotiate on rates from all sectors. Imports and suppliers that operate in hard currencies as well as our international marketing efforts have all been affected. The depreciation also makes outbound South African travel to African countries which operate with strong currencies difficult as it makes these destinations less affordable for the South African market.

Q: How is business in Nigeria (The Wheatbaker), Namibia (Windhoek CC & Swakopmund Hotel), Gabon (Hotel Le Cristal) and Ghana (Labadi Beach & La Palm Royal Beach)?

A: In Nigeria and Ghana, oil and natural resources have not performed as expected. Additionally, the development of hundreds of new rooms and international carriers changing their flight paths or withdrawing from destinations have put the hotels under pressure. Having said that, even in this landscape, our hotels in Nigeria and Ghana have maintained their performances. The Windhoek Country Club Resort and Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Centre remain strong players in their respective markets. We feel that Namibia in general remains a market with enormous growth opportunities still available to us. Hôtel Le Cristal is experiencing a very unique business trend at present. This is contrary to business in Libreville, which has also been negatively impacted in the past few months

Q: Where else in Africa is Legacy looking to expand?

A: There is a plan for us to expand further into key leisure and business destinations in Africa, but I can’t divulge any details at this point. Watch this space.