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August 1, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Bigger, Better, Busier

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cape town south africa
Photo by Andrea Willmore/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Susan Reynard

Conferencing business is distressed in this current market, with many businesses cutting back and conferencing in-house rather than offsite. Competition has also increased, with most of the new buildings in the business node of Sandton, Johannesburg in particular featuring their own conference facilities. For these reasons, says Robert Hodson, general manager of marketing and sales for Legacy Hotels and Resorts, there is a greater need to innovate.

“Legacy Hotels and Resorts’ approach to the conference market has changed as there is a need to make the client’s life easier and the entire experience seamless,” explains Robert. “We have had to innovate and change the offering to be unique in what we do: Be Healthy breaks, different lunches, activities, snacks, set-ups etc. To achieve this we needed to find an innovator and brought in a team member from the corporate world to have a look at the offerings, tweak them, enhance them and put together itineraries for conference incentive groups and coordinate with the PCOs to create events and conference experiences of a lifetime. Bottom line is that we had to become innovators in a world that moves at high pace. Wi-Fi is also a huge initiative of ours, with nine of our corporate properties offering unlimited free Wi-Fi.”

Hodson says they have seen the positive results of this approach with the DAVINCI Hotel and Suites in Sandton, Johannesburg. Its new Sophia facility, built at a cost of just over R1-million, was developed to accommodate groups of up to 120 pax and launched in late 2015, with business starting to flow through in early 2016. This complements the existing main banquet room, which can be subdivided into two rooms, Leonardo 1 and 2 accommodating 80 pax each, and the Mona Lisa boardroom, which caters for smaller conferences or meetings of up to 12 pax. “Sophia is a great venue with large mirrors and décor in keeping with the DAVINCI,” he adds.

Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge in the Pilanesberg has just launched a 12-seater boardroom to cater for demand for smaller, VIP conference groups. The Hippo conference room was transformed into the Hippo VIP boardroom at a cost of around R220 000, featuring the latest technology including video conferencing, drop down HD projector and full automation. The market has already started using this facility, which is also equipped with fully stocked soft drinks minibars and gourmet coffee. This is in addition to a variety of other event spaces that cater for between 40 and 400 pax.

The Commodore Hotel in Cape Town will be refurbishing its conferencing space during the next few months. The America’s Cup Room (up to 150 pax) and Blue Ribbon Room (up to 60 pax) will be completely refreshed and ideal for accommodating smaller groups. This is part of a larger refurbishment of the hotel that includes soft furnishings and modernised technology. The property also features 12-seater Legacy Boardroom.

The CSIR International Convention Centre (ICC) continues to upgrade and expand its facilities and a proposed refurbishment project is underway to modernise the older sections of the building and add more practicality. The latest project aims to create useful, thought-provoking, motivating and contemporary spaces while preserving and enhancing the centre’s main foyer area and auditoria.

The last expansion project was integrated into the existing facilities, with a 4000m2 flowing, convenient area added to accommodate changes in the market for evolving convention formats and spaces. The ICC now features a multi-functional exhibition hall with dedicated organisers’ office and storage facilities, an alfresco dining deck set into the convention centre’s natural setting which is ideal for bird watchers taking a break from business talk, and a luxury VIP suite that is strategically located to offer a private entrance away from other events, among other new facilities.

The CSIR ICC reports that event organisers are moving away from formal dinner set-ups and instead requesting more interactive events that encourage guests’ participation. They have also seen rising demand for themed events and outdoors set-ups. The latter is ideal at the CSIR as it recently added an outdoor alfresco dinning deck.

Sun International’s new casino resort in Menlyn Maine, Pretoria, Time Square, will launch Sun Arena in November 2017 and The Maslow Time Square in March 2018. Sun Arena is an 8500-seater, multi-purpose venue that is equipped to host a range of events and concerts, with six private hospitality suites available on request and two meeting rooms catering for between 45 and 144 pax individually and combined. The Globe Bar on the first floor of the casino is also available on request.

The Maslow Time Square is a specialist business hotel offering a total of 238 guest rooms split across 12 room types. The hotel features 13 conference rooms and a business lounge. Meeting rooms are designed to facilitate productive workshops, strategic thinking, effective team building and relaxation. On the mezzanine level of the hotel are four seminar rooms accommodating 12 pax each; on the first floor is a ballroom that can be split into two smaller ballrooms accommodating up to 450 pax in total, a flexi-seminar room for up to 20 pax, three break-away rooms that can be used individually or combined into two or three larger spaces catering for between 52 and 160 pax, and a pool terrace bar area (on request only); on the second floor are three premium break-away rooms catering for up to 39 pax each; a lobby/transit lounge on the 12th floor (on request only); three executive boardrooms for between eight and 13 pax on the 14th floor; and the Sun Set Bar on the 15th floor (on request only). All of the pax quoted are approximate and will depend on room configuration and final specifications of the various spaces.

The new-look Premier Hotel Cape Town is set to reopen by end-August 2017 after undergoing an R11-million renovation programme to improve the overall guest experience. The four-month project is being carried out by NV Properties and project managed by Betts Townsend Construction. The hotel’s three conference venues – Sunrise (60 pax), Sunset (160 pax) and Dawn (boardroom) – and 130 guests rooms have been refreshed with new furnishings. The reception and lounge areas, including Sofie’s Lounge, also feature new furniture, fittings and décor. The Promenade Restaurant and the Promenade Cocktail Bar now have new layout and design and contemporary earthy feel. The main kitchen has also been remodelled and a Kosher kitchen, with separate dairy and meat sections, has been introduced.

Premier Resort Sani Pass in the foothills of the Drakensberg has recently reopened following a R75-million refurbishment programme which began in April 2016. Upgrades make for a more memorable guest stay and the project will be completed by end-July 2017. The property features an additional 120 new guest rooms as well as a new 300-seater conference room. Its four venues, one with a combined option, accommodate a total of 450 pax.

“The refurbishments have enabled Premier Resort Sani Pass to advance from 3-star to 4-star status, with a world-class, African offering,” says Samuel Nassimov, managing director of Premier Hotels & Resorts. “Premier Resort Sani Pass initially opened its doors in 1958 and has become one of those places where families holiday and already book their spot for the next year when they check out. The resort has enjoyed such a loyal following, which in the past often meant that getting a room or event space was almost impossible. We wanted to create opportunities for more guests to experience the resort.”

The resort has been modernised with free high-speed Wi-Fi in all rooms and conference venues as well as air-conditioning. New entertainment facilities include a wellness centre, gym, spa and cinema and an indoor heated swimming pool, plus an upgraded nine-hole golf course and outdoor swimming pool. In addition, the resort offers a range of outdoors activities for children and adults.

Radisson Red Cape Town is the latest hotel offering by the Carlson Rezidor Group and is located next to the Zeitz MOCAA museum at Silo 6, Silo Square, South Arm Road at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. It is scheduled to open in September 2017 under the management of curator Dale Simpson. The hotel features 222 studios and 30 studio suites; free unlimited, high speed Wi-Fi; dining facilities OUIBar & Ktchn and RED Roof with grill, bar and pool and views of Table Mountain; gym; and onsite parking. Meeting space consists of four events and games studios across 500 metres squared accommodating 90 pax. They are fitted with the latest technology, barista coffee and target “those who hate dull”.

The Forum Embassy Hill (previously named Cecilia Ridge) is an historical residence in Constantia, Cape Town that has been added to The Forum group of properties. The original home of the Hamilton-Russel family built in 1952, the property was previously the Netherlands Embassy. Glynis Hyslop of The Forum Company oversaw a massive renovation of the property after they bought it. Embassy Hill is ideal for small weddings and events as well as large celebrations. It caters for up to 150 pax and features four bedroom suites for bridal parties or special guests. The gardens lend themselves to outdoors functions. In-house catering and bar services, a range of top wines from the Constantia Valley and a list of preferred vendors assist PCOs in organising successful events.

The Forum White Light in Lanseria, west of Johannesburg was added to the group two years ago and transformed from an old farm cottage to an intimate wedding venue. Its key feature is a blank canvas on which brides and organisers can create bespoke events. It caters for up to 140 pax, with personalised catering menu, fine dining cuisine, expert bar and waiter staff and five-star coordination service. Earlier this year The Forum added The Quarters to the property, consisting of a five-bedroom cottage with views of the garden and countryside ideal for bridal parties. The property also features The Kitchen at The Forum’s L’Antico Giardino, which has recently been opened on weekends for breakfast and lunch and on the first Friday of the month for afternoon drinks and snacks.

A “revamp” may include a new way of looking at existing spaces. The Cape Royale Luxury Hotel five-star property is now encouraging corporates to hold their next meeting or intimate conference in one of the penthouse suites, with private terrace and garden area. The rooftop luxury penthouse suites feature views of the Cape Town Stadium and Atlantic Seaboard. The penthouses can accommodate 10 pax each and the King Francis suite caters for up to 18 pax boardroom style or 30 cinema style.

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