JSE-listed resort hotel group Sun International’s best-known local resort, Sun City, in the North West, is currently undergoing a five-year, R1-billion upgrade that will hopefully restore the resort town’s reputation as a firm favourite among local and international holiday-goers.
Refurbishment of the iconic complex was due for completion in 2017 and included the revamp of Sun City’s four hotels and entertainment zones.
“Our aim is to keep refreshing all our offerings at the complex to make sure we stay current with the needs and aspirations of our guests,” said group GM for brand and communications Michael Farr, adding that Sun City remained popular among locals, international visitors and convention delegates.
He noted that the company had seen a recent upturn in occupancy rates, with unprecedented growth in visitors from China and Hong Kong during the 2015/16 festive season. “The Palace Hotel accounted for 126 of the 133 rooms sold to Hong Kong guests and more than a quarter of the 383 rooms were sold to Chinese visitors over December,” said Farr, noting that the weaker rand appeared to help counteract the negative impact from the visa regulations introduced last year.
Still, he conceded that the resort had been impacted by the new visa restrictions, compounded by renovation disruptions and a general decline in economic conditions, prompting large corporations to cut back on conferences.
“The visa problem is now easing but it will take some time and we expect that, with the new conference facilities opening in 2017, we will win back much of this business. We are also growing a new line of business in VIP gaming, which brings international gaming tourists to the resort,” he said.
A massive upgrade of the resort’s Entertainment Centre got under way in January, focusing on a complete facilities upgrade to attract convention business throughout the week. Sun International invested heavily in this upgrade to try recapture its place as a premier convention venue in South Africa, which the group was confident it could accomplish.
“The temporary closure of the Entertainment Centre may be a bit disruptive but we really have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure our guests have a great time,” said Farr, citing the establishment of the Sky Village temporary conference facilities as one of the actions taken by the group to try streamline the renovation process.
“We expect to reopen the Entertainment Centre by November 2016,” he confirmed.
NEW AND IMPROVED
Farr noted that the 382 luxury self-catering apartments at the Sun Vacation Club had already been upgraded and were selling well. According to the company, the vacation club was the engine that funded the other major developments at the resort.
The Cabanas Hotel’s 380 bedrooms had also been refurbished, along with the public areas and the pool bar. The children’s play areas were relocated and the entrance and reception area remodelled for a more contemporary and modern feel, with a balconied foyer overlooking the hotel’s rejuvenated restaurant.
The Sun City Hotel was also repositioned to provide an ‘always open’, Vegas-style party zone, with night clubs, burlesque clubs and restaurants. The hotel’s new upmarket Legends restaurant showcased memorabilia of celebrities who had stayed at Sun City over the years. This 190-seater restaurant with an open-action kitchen now featured an entertainment stage too.
Meanwhile, the Cascades hotel saw the addition of the Luma Bar in 2013, while its Bocado restaurant replaced the old Santorini, offering guests Mediterranean cuisine.
Further, a new ultrahigh-end VIP casino – The Palace Villa and Salon – had opened at The Palace Hotel, while the upmarket Plume as well as the Tusk Bar and Lounge had also been refurbished. The popular Grill Room had also been upgraded with a new lakeside terrace. Palace guests could look forward to a new spa in 2017, as well as an upgrade of the breakfast buffet area.
Moreover, Sun City had boosted its entertainment offering for teenagers and adventurers with the launch of an adventure hub, Adrenalin Extreme, which boasted a range of outdoor activities. The Valley of Waves water park had been extended with new rides – with more to come – while a new microbrewery-themed gastro pub, The Brew Monkey, had been opened, along with a new fresh fast-food eatery, Food Factory. Kamp Kwena, which had been a firm favourite among children for decades at Sun City, would also have a completely new look.
Further, the group introduced Sun Park – a new multipurpose facility with an indoor events venue and outdoor space for lifestyle events, music festivals and product launches.
“This is a significant upgrade and the feedback so far has been exceptional. We have committed about R1-billion to making sure this icon of South African hospitality continues to offer everything leisure and business travellers could possibly want. The Sun City brand is an extremely strong one and there are few South Africans – and tourists to South Africa – who haven’t heard of Sun City and the kind of experiences that can be enjoyed at the complex,” noted Farr.
He added that Sun International’s approach from inception had been to differentiate its hotels, resorts and casinos in architecture, service, experience, location and a mix of entertainment and activities.
“Creating lasting memories for our guests and customers is a core part of our DNA. We’ve created some of the world’s most iconic hotels ranging from The Royal Livingstone Hotel at Victoria Falls, to The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town.
“The creative architecture of these properties and the blending of their designs with their local environment make each property unique,” he concluded.