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April 3, 2018
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Sub-Saharan Africa: Put a Spin on Your Next Conference


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South Africa has several significant casino resorts spread around the country. We look at what makes them ideal destinations for your next meeting, conference and event.

Location

Glenn Joseph, chief operating officer of gaming at Tsogo Sun says when you unpack the offerings at a casino resort, you will see that all features work together. “When you choose a casino property like Montecasino, Silverstar, Gold Reef City and Suncoast, it adds a whole new dynamic to your experience. Traditional conferencing venues have conference rooms and a set menu, and if you’re doing something at night you need to bring in your own entertainment and décor. At a casino property you’re coming to an entertainment destination. When you plan your conference and say two days’ stay at a casino, you’re exposed to the hotels, which also have meeting rooms and restaurants, as well as the restaurants and entertainment facilities across the property,” he explains.

Events are tailor-made with a different theme for breakfast, lunch and dinner because all of these venues are available on site, adds Glenn. With the variety of themed restaurants at casino resorts, organisers can switch up dining to offer, for example, a Mexican and Indian and Italian dining experience without the added costs of draping and décor hire. It serves as a value-added offering. “We provide so much more than just casino and conferencing: people want options, they want something different, and we can provide that at any of our casino resorts. We can put a spin on it and also offer traditional conferencing if that is what the client wants,” he says.

Trevor Wolverson, food and beverage manager at Silverstar, says the resort is a one-stop venue. “Delegates can fly or drive to Silverstar and not have to leave for the duration since we have everything including conferencing facilities, food and beverage options, as well as team-building (laser tag or 10 pin bowling), entertainment (Barnyard, movies and regular shows in Silverstar Centre) and a spa. There really is no need for anything else,” he notes.

Peermont’s Emperors Palace is conveniently located next to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and is home to 29 venues in the Convention Centre, which can comfortably accommodate intimate meetings and large groups of up to 3000 delegates, explains Peermont’s general manager: hospitality Rekha Sohan. “Conference packages are tailor-made to suit any budget and can include overnight stays, which means delegates can easily transition from business formal to cocktail casual once the formalities are over. Our properties are not only ideal for conferences but also small parties, meetings, year-end functions, weddings and team-building events,” she adds.

Sun International’s Sun City has been a business and leisure destination since its launch in 1979 and has evolved its corporate conferencing to offer more than meeting rooms and venues. The activities that can be built into the packages continue to make the offering special. The resort has recently undergone a R1-billion upgrade to ensure its facilities and services meet the needs of business travellers.

“Nothing can beat the high level of interaction and collaboration that comes with meeting face-to-face and off site. The opportunities to connect, engage and create that conferences offer certainly promote teamwork, productivity and performance. We offer the opportunity to companies to build bespoke packages which combine any of the entertainment activities available at Sun City. This means that companies have access to awesome morale-building activities to complement their conferences all in one place. The experience continues after conference hours, with an array of activities, restaurants and vibrant night life to enjoy,” explains Raul de Lima, general manager at Sun City.

Experiences

The casino theme is a popular one for events, inspired by movies like Casino Royale. Also providing much inspiration are any films with James Bond and glamorous settings such as The Great Gatsby. Glenn says they can incorporate these kinds of themes according to what is trending at the time, including:

  • Setting up a few tables with croupiers to teach people to play in a non-live setting (no actual money is won or lost)
  • Adding a whisky tasting experience
  • Hosting black tie events
  • Focusing on fine-dining cuisine

Trevor says casino conferencing has a number of advantages:

  • Large capacity venues
  • Competitive pricing and packages
  • Group-owned restaurants on-site may be booked out for conference clients, serving as an extension of the conference facilities
  • Fun breakaways and team-building activities
  • Blend of business and fun on one property
  • Save time and money on logistics and transport

Rekha says that the casino element at Emperors Palace allows delegates access to a large variety of entertainment and it is easy for delegates to entertain themselves during their spare time. The resort element allows an all-in-one offering such as accommodation, conferencing, events and entertainment. “The fact that an event is hosted at Emperors Palace, which is well-known for its casino facilities, automatically benefits guests who enjoy gaming. Alternatively, conference packages can be put together that include shows and events, as well as a gaming element which can form part of the itinerary,” she adds.

The Entertainment Centre at Sun City has been rebuilt and renamed Sun Central as part of the significant upgrade of the resort. Sun Central is now an experiential entertainment and conference hub. On the upper level is Sun Central, the state of the art Sun City Convention Centre offering a variety of banqueting and conference venues plus entertainment for large groups of delegates. It features a selection of boardrooms; breakaway rooms; fully equipped venues; Splice dedicated slow lounge; Stir coffee shop; and the interactive South African Hall of Fame honouring the country’s most memorable achievers.

Delegate experiences often begin with accommodation and The Maslow at Time Square hotel is the latest offering launched at Sun International’s Time Square in Pretoria. Time Square casino launched a year ago, Sun Arena 8500-seater multipurpose venue launched three months ago, and the new hotel is the final stage of the project. The property has a range of restaurants and leisure facilities, plus 13 conference rooms. The 238-room The Maslow at Time Square has an innovative concept at its core: it features three grades of accommodation within one building:

  • The Foundation Level offers a full range of amenities and delivers good quality service, design and physical attributes to meet guest expectations.
  • The Median Level offers a deluxe experience, with a wider range of facilities and superior design qualities that meet the needs of discerning guests including a gym, pool and conference centre.
  • The Zenith Level offers an exceptional range of facilities and premier services that are personalised and designed to provide exclusive experience including butler service, fully stocked mini bar, Luminary Lounge, Solis Bar, infinity pool and conferencing facilities.

Brett Hoppé, general manager of Time Square, says that every aspect of the hotel has been intuitively designed to help guests to balance work and life, focusing on the individual’s needs.

Entertainment

Just some of the options available across various properties and nearby include:

  • Innovative event spaces
  • Large function facilities
  • Range of themed restaurants
  • Theatres and live shows
  • Outdoor facilities
  • Team- and morale-building options
  • On-site entertainment
  • Hotel accommodation from three- to five-star
  • Plenty of parking
  • Cultural, educational and fun experiences
  • Spas
  • State of the art technology
  • Sporting activities
  • Adventure activities
  • Safety and security
  • Inclusive packages
  • Group tours of the city

Sun International’s Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom in KwaZulu-Natal has added new Sun Park to the offering, ideal for large events. Sun Park has a semi-permanent, flexible infrastructure built around a 2400m2 grid that can be arranged in any configuration. It consists of a 1750m2marquee structure and deck plus large grassed areas, featuring the facilities and support services of an indoor events venue coupled with the flexibility of an outdoor space. It is ideal for conferences, lifestyle events, product launches, banquets, exhibitions, concerts and more.

“Sun Park can rapidly bring large events to life. The semi-permanent modular design of Sun Park is based on internationally proven expo parks. Whether you want outdoor, indoor, multiple or triple-story structures, Sun Park is easily transformed. Due to the flexibility of the semi-permanent Sun Park infrastructure and the sophisticated grid that gives you easy access to amenities, it’s quick and easy to build any type of event, of various sizes or configuration,” says Rory Phelan, business development manager: Sun Sales.

Sun International currently operates three Sun Parks at its casino resorts Sun City, Carnival City and now Sibaya, with GrandWest offering the grid but not the marquee.

Sun City has added numerous sporting and outdoor activities for the adventurous, plus a range of new team-building experiences. Together with the many popular signature experiences across the property, these serve to ensure the resort remains competitive.

Time Square has brought a wide range of experiences to visitors, including 18 bars and restaurants, many headed up by big-name restaurateurs, chefs and celebrities. Three establishments that stand out include:

  • Forti Grill & Bar by award-winning chef and restaurateur, Fortunato Mazzone, also of Ristorante Ritrovo
  • Something’s Cooking by J’Something by Joao da Fonseca, lead singer of Mi Casa
  • Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar South Africa by Guy Fieri, American celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV host of Guy's Big Bite and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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