Who are African Sun Hotels and where do you have properties?
African Sun is the former Zimbabwe Sun Limited. We have 13 properties in Zimbabwe, two in South Africa, one opening soon in Gaborone, Botswana, five in Nigeria and one in Ghana. We have a timeshare in Mozambique, as well.
What is the African Sun philosophy?
We want to be the benchmark hotel management company in Africa. We are aware of the fact that there is a hotel management skills gap or shortage in Africa, which we feel we can fill, from a purely African point of view. We want to be able to engage with different stakeholders, governments, developers, financiers and local communities, to come up with a holistic hospitality approach to hotel management.
Would you call that approach, a ‘developmental’ approach?
Yes, because a lot of the hotel management skills are imported, because of our history in Africa. Right now, we think that there is a place for us to start bringing in and using more local skills, most definitely. Specifically, hotel management skills and developing those skills.
Does African Sun consider itself a business or leisure hotel management company or a bit of both?
Going forward, we’re going to be more business focused. But, we do have some unique resorts in Zimbabwe and we have the best resort properties in Nigeria – in fact we manage their very best resort, the Obudu Mountain Resort. So, we have pockets of good resorts, but, the way we are going, we’ll be more business management focused, because that’s more robust and less cyclical by nature, unlike the resorts.
What have been the challenges of the past few years?
We’re coming from a period of lack of capitalisation in our product, lack of product investment, skills drain, particularly in our Zimbabwean properties, as well as a lack of technology. So, as the world was facing this financial crisis, you needed all these different aspects of your business to really come together and to recapitalise. The whole equation came down to financing. It was difficult, but we managed to work through it – just to get the financing, coming from a background of not great performance and a world that is thirsty for Foreign Direct Investment, and against the backdrop of the global financial crisis.
Does African Sun have any new properties to speak of?
We are working on something quite exciting in Angola. I can’t go into the details, but we are also opening in Gaborone, our new Holiday Inn. We are also opening a new Best Western in Benin City, in southern Nigeria and we are also working on something quite exciting in Mauritius.
Which country is the best to view Victoria Falls from?
You’ll only find out by actually going to the Victoria Falls ! (laughs) What you’ll find on the ground, is that 95% of the viewing sights for Vic Falls, are on the Zimbabwe side and that is a fact!