Senior editor Barbara J. Mays recently visited three of Sun
International's South Africa properties. Her report follows:
un International, which has
offered deluxe lodgings in South Africa for more than 20 years,
boasts four- and five-star properties in several parts of South
On a recent trip, I was able to sample three Sun International
properties: the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town; the Zimbali Lodge and
Country Club, about 26 miles north of the Durban seaport, and the
firm's flagship resort, Sun City, which is slightly more than 100
miles northwest of Johannesburg and sits adjacent to the
wildlife-rich Pilanesberg National Park.
My first two nights in South Africa were spent at Table Bay,
which is ideally situated at Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a
marina area with restaurants, shopping and attractions.
All 329 rooms afford scenic views, with half facing the working
harbor and Table Mountain, and the other half looking out on to
Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner.
Dinner was in the hotel's recently renovated restaurant, the
"We made subtle changes to the restaurant," said Philip Georgas,
divisional director, resort, for Sun International. "[We] moved out
some booth seating arrangements as well as the partitions at the
entrance and added soft goods and paint.
"What we have done gives it a roomier feel but with the same
cozy ambience," he said.
Rates at Table Bay Hotel are from about $350 per room, per night
for a twin room with a mountain view to about $1,500 for a hillside
We flew off to the Zimbali Lodge and Country Club the next
The 2-year-old Zimbali Lodge is located on about 850 acres in
the Kwa-Zulu Natal region.
According to Ian Anderson, Sun's manager of national and
international sales, Zimbali is the hotel firm's first venture into
the boutique hotel business.
The decor of the 76-room property was a mix of colonial and
African styles, complete with animal skin floor coverings; large
wood-carved pieces in public rooms, and Afrocentric art
Another interesting touch was the paw print of a Masmango monkey
in the sand-filled ash trays and on random brick tiles on the
Zimbali Lodge is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Durban and
several game parks.
Resident manager Richard Mills said the hotel is concentrating
on improving occupancy levels.
"We have not had many foreign visitors yet but expect to see
that change," he said.
"We have an ideal location on the coast, which would be good for
small groups. Groups can hire out the entire property," Mills
The lures for this group market, he said, are a milder climate
due to hot winds from Mozambique plus a golf course, country club,
conference rooms and a spa.
Among the interesting aspects of this property is a lake created
by a dammed section of the Indian Ocean.
The Zimbali Lodge also is constructing a gated beach area for
Rates here are about $90 per room, per night, double.
I felt lost upon arriving at the Sun City complex.
Sun City comprises four hotels: the deluxe 338-room Palace of
the Lost City; the newly renovated, 340-room Sun City Hotel; the
242-room Cascades, and the Cabanas, which offers 144 standard rooms
and 236 deluxe cabanas and is primarily a family resort.
Features at the Sun City resort include a man-made beach, a bus
system to move guests around the resort and a simulated earthquake
-- three or four times a day, smoke rises from the ground and the
rumblings of an earthquake can be heard as guests literally feel
the earth move beneath their feet.
Guests can take guided tours of the Sun City complex, and
Pilanesberg National Park is only a 15-minute drive from its front
Anderson said Sun City's occupancy level is holding at 72% to
80% throughout the resort.
Since "we have a high repeat-client level, we are now focusing
on developing [Sun City's] golf aspect," he said.
"We have a good course, and will again host the Ned Bank
challenge, a multimillion-dollar event," Anderson said.
Georgas said business at Sun City is up 14% at the high end and
54% at the low end.
Rates at Sun City resorts are on a per room, per night
Rates at the Palace of the Lost City are from about $300 midweek
for a standard room to $450 for a suite. Rates at Cascades range
from about $250 to $1,000; Sun City Hotel ranges from about $1,605
to $8,010 for the presidential suite, and Cabanas is from about
$200 to $300 for family units with lake views.
Much of Sun International's business is generated by the group
and convention market, according to Georgas.
He said he has seen an "overall 17% to 18% gain in incentive
business, especially in the off-season."
Georgas added that Sun International is looking to expand within
Africa, naming Egypt as a possibility.