Sandton Giant

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Legacy Hotels & Resorts is a South African hotel group with a host of 4- and 5-star properties, and even though the group’s portfolio includes a selection of resorts and lodges, corporate travel remains its priority, as Managing Director Paddy Brearley explained to editor Dylan Rogers over a coffee at Legacy’s Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton.

Paddy Brearley and his Legacy Hotels & Resorts team know where their bread is buttered.

In Sandton, Johannesburg.

The group has a significant presence in South Africa’s economic hub, with the Michelangelo Hotel, Michelangelo Towers, Davinci Hotels & Suites, and Raphael Penthouse Suites properties, and Brearley is blunt about Legacy’s focus on this area of Johannesburg.

“Sandton is the place to be,” he says. “The dominance of Legacy in the Sandton precinct is very important, because it does attract all our overseas guests to come and stay here. Sandton is the business hub of Africa, and if you look around it right now, the development is phenomenal.”

And Legacy isn’t done with Sandton just yet. The group has taken a decision to expand in the area with a property that Brearley describes as “key”. The Leonardo, in Maude Street, is over 40 storeys tall and Legacy is developing it not just as a hotel, but also a property offering apartments, offices and “great public areas”, according to Brearley. Completion is expected in the next two to three years.

“The offering is similar but probably more luxurious than the Michelangelo Towers,” says Brearley.

Whilst Sandton remains a Legacy focus, so does the main source of its business.

“We look at being in the corporate market, with back-up from the leisure market, particularly from overseas,” says Brearley. “About 60% of our market comes from overseas, whether it be corporate or leisure. We’re highly dependent on the overseas market.”

That may be the case, but those overseas guests don’t just make use of Legacy’s Sandton properties. The group also has an overall African footprint – one that currently includes properties in Nigeria, Namibia, Gabon and Ghana – that it is looking to grow.

“We see our growth particularly focused on the key corporate areas of Africa,” says Brearley. “We’re looking at several developments. We’re already in Ghana and Nigeria, and we’d like to be in Zambia and Zimbabwe. We look right through sub-Saharan Africa, and if we can get three or four properties in the next couple of years, it will be fantastic.”

Brearley admits that Mozambique and Kenya are also both on Legacy’s radar, if the latter “can get the whole security issue resolved”. There may also be some exciting news out of Ghana soon, where Legacy already has the Labadi Beach Hotel, one of only two 5-star properties in Accra, and one that received a significant upgrade to its conferencing offering in 2014.

“The Labadi conferencing upgrade was very successful, pre-Ebola, and it obviously crashed a bit during Ebola for about four, five months,” says Brearley. “But I think that’s gone away now, and it’s very busy again.”

Legacy also has plans to add 60 rooms to its Wheatbaker boutique hotel property in Lagos in the next couple of years, whilst it is one of the few big groups with a presence in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, with the Hotel Le Cristal.

Brearley is unapologetic about his approach to staff and service, saying he’s often been accused of over-staffing at his properties.

“In the business market, we’re probably slightly more expensive than a lot of the hotels, but the reason is that we want to try and give our guests the best service and product, as well as keep up to date with modern technology,” he says.

For now there appears plenty in the Legacy pipeline, with Brearley hinting that perhaps the group could soon pop up with more news than he’s already revealed. What is clear is that there will be no sitting still for Legacy, with Brearley mindful of just how competitive his industry is.

“We always look at every opportunity,” he says, and you expect that to continue to be the case for Legacy Hotels & Resorts.