Hilton Cape Town City Centre is the newest addition to the international group’s portfolio in South Africa and has a different offering to that served up by Hilton’s properties in Johannesburg and Durban. General Manager Markus Fritz joined editor Dylan Rogers for a chat about what the advantages of the hotel’s size are, and what Cape Town needs to do to realise its potential.
How would you compare your hotel with the Hilton properties in Johannesburg and Durban?
Because it’s the newest addition to the portfolio, it has the ambience of a boutique establishment, due to its design and size.
How much of your business is business travel and how much is leisure?
We track all of our business and leisure guests using pre-determined Hilton-specific market segments, and I’d say we are looking at a 40% corporate and 60% leisure split.
Are you seeing more arrivals from any particular country/continent/market segment?
We have seen a shift in the geographic origin of business since the global economic recession in 2008. Financial challenges within the Eurozone have resulted in a decrease in the number of travellers from this previously key market. Asia and South America continue to grow as source markets for the city and the country. We are also very proud that the majority of our guests are domestic travellers.
You took over as GM in September 2011 – was it a difficult time, business wise, considering the drop-off in occupancies since the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
The global economic crisis has impacted the Cape Town market severely. However, we have seen a steady increase in occupancy rates since the rebranding in 2011. This can be attributed to the brand’s reputation, the repositioning of the hotel, as well as our HHonors Loyalty Programme, which has over 34 million members.
As a big international hotel brand, how do you differentiate yourself in the market
A number of ways. Our HHonors programme is one of the largest and most recognised loyalty programmes, globally. We have over 50 airline partners and our guests can earn airline miles and hotel points simultaneously. In addition to this, Hilton University which is Hilton Worldwide’s e-learning platform, offers over 2,000 educational tools and training courses to team members.
Sustainability is another key priority for Hilton Worldwide – our Lightstay programme is an innovative sustainability tracking tool, as it measures the hotel’s energy and water use, as well as waste and carbon outputs around the globe. Hilton Worldwide is the first major multi-brand company in the hospitality industry to introduce a sustainability measurement as a brand standard.
You offer conference facilities – is this now a ‘must-have’ for any business hotel looking to be competitive? If so, why?
Yes. A corporate hotel must be able to offer meeting or conference facilities along with the appropriate technology for the business traveller. It is not necessary to have venues accommodating large numbers, as technology has alleviated the need to get everyone into the same room, in order to conduct a successful business meeting. However, it is important to provide small and medium-sized conference venues and reliable Internet access, which we offer free of charge.
What else has become standard, in terms of what you should and can offer the modern day business traveller?
He or she is looking for quality customer service and a hassle-free travel experience. The biggest demand for any business traveller is staying connected, so HSIA and Wi-Fi are vital. A growing trend has been the need for multi-lingual team members, business facilities that operate 24 hours a day, comfortable in-room work stations and excellent meeting facilities.
Your background is in Europe – what’s your biggest challenge here, compared with what you experienced there?
I believe that Cape Town as a city has underutilised potential and I would love to see increased efforts by all stakeholders in the tourism industry to promote the destination, both domestic and internationally. At Hilton Cape Town City Centre, we continue to promote the city and its rich cultural heritage in addition to its many tourist attractions. We definitely look forward to seeing a greater focus within the industry to drive ‘Destination Cape Town’ and all it has to offer. This is especially needed during the winter period to ensure sustained levels of tourism in the city.
Do you foresee more international brands entering the Cape Town market, or has it reached its capacity?
There are certainly many opportunities within Cape Town’s tourism market.