Leading conservation brand Great Plains, led by photographers and filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, has announce new ‘sensational safari accommodations’ in two different design-led camps, which both open this summer…
Great Plains has unveiled that it will open two new design-led safari camps, Mara Toto Camp and Mara Plains Camp, this summer in Kenya.
The brand-new Mara Toto Camp, which is perfectly suited for families and intimate groups traveling together, will open its doors to guests on May 25, 2021. Meaning “baby” in Swahili, Mara Toto Camp will be located just two kilometres away from big sister Mara Plains Camp, which is also scheduled to re-open on June 1, 2021, after a full camp refurbishment, including introducing an exquisite new private honeymoon suite. The eagerly anticipated Mara Jahazi Suite is scheduled to open at Mara Plains Camp at the same time. The exclusive use villa will include a private game drive vehicle, guide, butler and chef. It will be ideal for groups and multi-generational travel looking for an exceptional private safari experience.
Image credit: Great Plains
Image credit: Great Plains
Situated along the Ntiakitiak River banks on the border of the Maasai Mara Reserve, the new Mara Toto Camp is hidden in the forest, offering guests privacy and wonderful game-viewing opportunities with access to both the Maasai Mara Reserve and the adjacent Mara North Private Conservancy. Accommodating up to eight guests, the intimate Mara Toto Camp is perfectly suited to be hired out exclusively for intimate groups, couples, and families. Designed by co-founder Beverly Joubert, the new camp will boast tranquil blue coloured interiors with leather and canvas touches harmoniously blending a feeling of comfort and adventure. Mara Toto Camp will consist of four canvas tents with spacious brass baths, along with a communal relaxation area, and indoor and outdoor dining options.
Situated in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy – one of the most iconic wildlife destinations on the planet with unrivalled access to more than 100,000 acres of exclusive land as well as access to the 375,000 Maasai Mara Reserve – Mara Plains Camp, will re-open to guests at the beginning of June after undergoing a full camp refurbishment. Located upriver from little sister Mara Toto Camp, the refreshed camp is completely elevated on high-rise decks and will now offer couples a brand-new honeymoon suite on a peninsula island. The new Honeymoon Suite can only be accessed via suspension bridge offering couples their own oasis of exclusivity and privacy. Designed by Great Plains CEO and co-founder Dereck Joubert, the new honeymoon suite at Mara Plains will have large wooden Swahili doors, paying homage to East Africa’s essence. The spacious open-plan design and décor of the honeymoon suite, also designed by Beverly, will have a colonial influence with wooden floors, big antique brass chandeliers from the original South African Blue Train, red-hued interiors and fine brass furnishings, offering an elegant yet comfortable atmosphere that complements the abundant surrounding wilderness.
Mara Plains will also be introducing the eagerly anticipated Mara Plains Jahazi Suite, an impressive new private two-bedroom villa, which will open at the same time as Mara Plains. Featuring big wooden Zanzibar doors, large teak Mahogany desks and exquisite luxurious red coloured interiors, the spacious open plan exclusive villa residence consists of a two-bedroom suite, shared lounge and dining area including the services of a private game drive vehicle, guide and chef.
“Our new camps will encapsulate that period and yet encourage living in the moment and being present. I know you will fall in love here. I do each time.” – Dereck Joubert, CEO of Great Plains.
Image credit: Great Plains
Image credit: Great Plains
“That allure of safari started in East Africa, and our plans this year are to expand our offering in Kenya, but to do it with an eye to that original East African safari with a greatly improved standard,” said Dereck. “I’ve always felt that our guests want to come to Africa to see wildlife, and experience that spirit of the continent- to be seduced by its romance and warmth of our communities. Guests stay with us to have their hearts, and their minds stimulated. At Great Plains, they come to step into a movie script where everything is perfect, stylish and breath-taking. Our new camps will encapsulate that period and yet encourage living in the moment and being present. I know you will fall in love here. I do each time.”
As well as sheltering stylish accommodations and public areas that effortless reflect sense of place, Great Plains inherently in its hospitality nature. For example, all of its properties are solar-powered. In addition, a local sapling is planted for every guest that stays at a Great Plains Kenya camp as part of the Great Plains Foundation’s Replacement of Shade Programme; a sustainable travel initiative that aims to restore indigenous trees to Kenya’s vast landscape.
In Conversation With: the filmmakers who designed Great Plains
Having spent more than 40 years exploring Africa as photographers and filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the founders of Great Plains, have new standards in sustainability, hospitality and humanity. Editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with the dynamic duo to understand authentic luxury hotel design through a wider lens, capturing a broader perspective when it comes to hospitality in the wild…
There is something about Africa – the woodlands, wetlands, and seemingly never-ending grasslands in-between – that gives life deeper meaning. I’ve noticed that the sun sets differently here, almost feeling like you’re closer to the sun than any other continent on earth is.
My experience in Africa is a millisecond, though, compared to the time that Dereck and Beverly Joubert have invested in order to learn about this great natural world. Having spent more than 40 years’ exploring these plains as filmmakers and photographers – the pair have produced more than 25 films for National Geographic – to call these two wildlife and conservation experts is an unruly understatement.
In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation work, Beverly and Dereck channeled their wisdom and love of nature and started a new hospitality venture. Their inspirational journey – which went on to challenge the cookie-cutter approach in safari travel, architecture and design – began when they set up Great Plains, an authentic and iconic tourism conservation organisation.
Today, the brand shelters 16 safari properties, in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, each designed through the director’s lens to tell unique stories that enhance each camp’s very special sense of place and built to celebrate each destination’s individual character.
Image caption: Filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, co-founders of Great Plains, design each camp themselves. | Image credit: Duba Plains, Great Plains
Image caption: All 16 camps in Great Plain’s portfolio are sustainably designed to offer unique luxury perspectives on nature. | Image credit: Duba Plains, Great Plains
Despite being award-winning filmmakers, world-renowned hoteliers and selflessly good human beings through their ongoing charity work, there is not a shred of haughtiness about Beverly and Dereck, as I learn when I catch up with the husband-and-wife team to understand how they, through a purposeful and sustainable approach to luxury hospitality, are helping travellers to capture one-off experiences from a slightly different perspective.
Hamish Kilburn: What initially made you audition for the roles of ‘hotelier’?
Beverly Joubert: We’re explorers, conservationists and filmmakers. As we started the Big Cats Initiative at National Geographic, we soon realised that saving lions one at a time was futile and we needed to conserve large landscapes to save everything in them. To afford this, we decided on high-end tourism as opposed to philanthropy.
Dereck Joubert: To be honest hospitality runs deep in Africa; in our DNA where of course we were all born, so we were inspired by that spirit of coming home and being welcomed. As a result, as I design our camps, I do it with two ’stories’ in mind: the three act ‘ welcome home’ one and whatever story I want to tell through the design of that unique place.
Image caption: In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation efforts, filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert launched Great Plains.
HK: What amendments have you made to the existing script of safari in Africa?
DJ: Oh, I don’t think we have amended the African safari – it transcends us! It may have been about the physical journey (safari being quite simply a journey in Swahili) but if anything I hope we expand it to an inner journey as much as a physical one. Our version of safari is one where you can explore your roots, from millions of years ago, and interrogate your relationship with the other creatures here, our history with them, our very profound and interwoven dependancy. For example there was an ancient cat called Dinofelis that stalked the caves we sheltered in 3.5 million years ago, and possibly forced us out into the grasslands more where we discovered fire and bone marrow that gave us strength, intelligence and the ability to no longer fear large spotted cats. Today we seek out leopards to marvel at their beauty rather than shy away in fear, but we’ve walked this journey of the safari together.
BJ: What does the resonance of meditating at a waterhole with elephants nearby as they rumble do to you? How can we each for that creative energy that the early philosophers and poets sought out in the wilderness, uncluttered and pure. In the style of our camps, we try to add detail and story telling like this in design, in service and as an experience.
Image caption: Set in one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on our planet, the Selinda Camp rests on the banks of the Selinda Spillway, as it enters the Linyanti River. | Image credit: Great Plains
Image caption: The private 130 000-hectare Selinda Reserve boasts elephants by the thousands, regular sightings of the Selinda pack of African wild dogs as well as the famous Selinda Lion Pride. | Image credit: Great Plains
HK: What is the current narrative in Africa?
BJ: The Covid-19 death rates in the USA is at about 800 per million people. In Botswana it is 2 per million, so the safety and risk are worlds apart. The outdoor experiences reduce the risk dramatically, but no matter what the rates are, the closed borders have obviously collapsed tourism.
What is evident is that we’re in a cycle of demise that can cause spiralling circles of pandemics. As a result of our nefarious relationship with wild animals placed in captivity in cages in wet markets (in this case), we have sparked an economic crisis, global shutdowns that will lead to a recession, closed borders, and tourism, that communities rely so heavily on in Africa and other places.
DJ: The loss of income has led to many turning to nature to feed themselves at a time when game wardens and anti poaching patrols have been cut back. This perfect storm has led to a second pandemic of destruction of wildlife and a renewed trade in illegal wildlife and bush meat, that find their ways into the wet markets again. So we are seeing a second and third wave of new unexpected viral pandemics as a result. We have to shut down wet markets and the trade in wildlife. We have to review and renew the ways we engage with all animals . We started Project Ranger to support rangers who have been furloughed and keep wildlife areas intact and protected. We have to ensure that there is actually something for travellers to want to seek out when this is all over.
HK: What makes your cast of 660 employees special and unique?
BJ: It is an ensemble cast isn’t it?! I think that the way we work at Great Plains is as a small family business, with a family of employees who do more than just show up. Hospitality in general requires skills that are more involved than that any way – much close to the work as performers – each day to smile and engage in a pleasant way no matter what is going on in your life. I recognise that, so we are sensitised to this and have a policy of support. If a guide is having a bad day, another is primed to reach out and ask him or her what is going on and to step in. Managers do the same to their staff and actually this starts at the top and someone who just joined our EXCO meetings pointed out that I start each session asking each Managing Director what we can do as a whole group to help each week. I know the names of all our staff and most of their families and I don’t want to grow it beyond that point where it becomes impersonal and corporate.
HK: Can you talk us through the filmmaker process of storyboarding each scene/camp?
DJ: Each hotel or in our case, camp, is a story. I start with an overall direction and message. In the Selinda camp, for example, I wanted us to re-evaluate our relationship with elephants. The camp is in the heart of the highest density of elephants in the world, but in the past, early explorers like Livingstone and Selous travelled through these areas with guns and a desire for ivory. Selinda was a hunting concession for decades and when we took it over we stopped all killing.
Our relationship with elephants is symbolic of our loss of harmony, so therefore harmony was the solution to ’the question’ the area and the elephants themselves impose on us.
Now I obviously didn’t want to simply populate the décor with elephant images – that would be too easy and cheap. Instead, I designed and cast two life-sized bronze skulls of elephants including bronze tusks but in the forehead of one I had the words “homo nosce the Ipsum” cut in, and in the other “homo nosce pe Ipsum”, which is Latin for “man know thyself” and “man forgive thyself”. The sculptures are placed on either side of the main entrance with the intention to stimulate a real conversation that starts with us understand who we are and what we have done over the centuries to their peaceful animals, but then to forgive ourselves (and our ancestors) for who we are.
But that is just the first act, and I wanted to design this with a longer and deeper path towards harmony which in Eastern teachings leans towards the laying out of five fundamental elements the first being the metal skulls, but then you enter a chamber with blue touch of furniture, to represent water and often our guests arrive by boat so I imagined them dragging that element with them, like a smoke trail from the river. Next, you enter for a welcome tea; an open space with a flowing white silk roof to represent air. Beyond that you pass through an open dining area with brown tables, where we serve fresh largely plant based food from the earth, and then to the fire and off to the third act and your resting place, in your room, presumable in perfect harmony and balance.
Image caption: Each camp is designed individually. The Selinda Camp, for example, has been designed to celebrate elephants. | Image credit: Great Plains
Image caption: Dereck and Beverly Joubert designed and cast two life-sized bronze skulls of elephants including bronze tusks for the Selinda Camp. | Image credit: Great Plains
Only once we understand who we are, and forgive ourselves will we be able to cross a threshold, as one does in this camp, into a new unburdened relationship with both ourselves and elephants, like stepping through a vortex.
It’s not just a story though, I believe that most people arrive and feel that tranquility and settle because of the balance we have created, and so many arriving guest actually sign deeply as they enter this story, this camp. If I can I will briefly describe Mara Plains, that I felt should be an architectural and physical meeting place, also in harmony between three often opposing cultures: The Maasai, the Swahili, the colonials.
But as explorers for National Geographic, we wanted to be the glue as one is behind the lens. So I oriented the camp based on a single and lone tree five km away, drew a line through the camp, and angled it all around this tree. Then I drew a Fibonacci proportion in the ground and had the tent makers make the main tent exactly to those proportions, representing the ideal gold rectangle one uses in a 35 mm picture frame.
Inside the camp, we imported 75-100 year old railway sleepers as recycled wood (teak) and brass from the original Blue Train 120 years ago. Reds from the Maasai culture represent this very visual association and it didn’t have be head handed because we are in Maasai world so it is everywhere anyway, but the coastal Swahili culture has in influence here so the large Swahili doors behind the showers are a not to them, associated with the sea and water. Each tent fits the Fibonacci proportions creating a film set styled ration that takes you back to the romance of the 1920’s adventures but hopefully without the embedded racism and in appropriate colonialism of that time.
“I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian Tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work.” – Beverly Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.
HK: How and where do you source your props/artefacts?
BJ: In some cases, we design and make them ourselves, like in Zarafa, in Botswana, which is based on the story of the first giraffe to be seen by westerners as it went on a journey to Paris as a gift to KingCharles X.
Image caption: Dereck and Beverly source art and artefacts in a meaningful way. | Image credit: Great Plains
Image caption: Dereck and Beverly take deep pride in how each camp is sensitively designed. Image credit: Great Plains
Here, I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work, and where tons of mahogany used for houses were smashed down from house scale to ideal furniture scale. So we used the reclaimed mahogany and hired the artisans to make this campaign furniture that is now unique to Zarafa camp. In other cases we just come across something in a market or antique store that we love and can’t live without, so we don’t!
HK: How has your approach on sustainability helped the local community?
BJ: Well, we have delivered something like 6,000 solar lanterns to families that have perviously been off grind, and an amazing addition to that was that the principal of the local school wrote to thank us because school grades were going up because kids could do their homework after dark. I don’t think the kids liked having do that but… We send nine ladies with very little education from Botswana to India to learn solar circuit board manufacturing technology for six months and to return and develop local businesses from this. We’ve planted more than 5,000 trees and started tree growing initiatives. We have a Great Plains Academy to teach people about hospitality and who to bridge the gap from high school to university.
HK: It’s clear that, as wildlife filmmakers, you allow nature to call the shots – can you explain more about how guests can give back to nature during their stay?
DJ: To nature, our guests and followers get involved in help fund a rhino calf by naming stand securing its protection on the wild, or supporting Project Ranger to keep front line conservationists at work to avoid this second pandemic. We have a need for $20 donations towards solar lanterns for kids learning at night, as well as $45,000 to move a rhino and indeed, we need an army of ambassadors who don’t donate but lobby against the extraction of wildlife (via hunting or poaching and trade) with their local representative. Everyone can do something.
HK: What major lesson has this journey in hospitality taught you so far?
BJ: We can all learn from hospitality because it is all about kindness and care; paying attention to details and I find myself taking a lot more care just to find out how someone (even in my team) is doing, randomly, as if I am hosting the world.
HK: 2016 was a pivotal year for you both. Beverly you survived a fatel injury after being attacked by a buffalo while filming your latest materpiece. Dereck, did that event and your recovery change your relationship with nature?
DJ: You know the buffalo attack didn’t really change that relationship, as much as it changed our relationship with ourselves, in that I promised myself not to waste another moment, day or month not totally enjoying my life with Beverly (if I got her back, which I did four times).
HK: Has designing hotels changed your perception at all as wildlife filmmakers?
BJ: Interesting, probably in that it has made me (both of us, I think) understand story telling more, because if you base the entire design of a hotel on a story, as I do, and that is going to be its story for decades it had better be well researched and thought out. So our films have probably evolved into more layered and in depth stories and while I had not connected the two careers in many way, I can see yah prior to this, where I am designing spaces based on a deep philosophy like our relationship with elephants, or intersecting cultures there is more depth to our films.
“I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts.” – Dereck Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.
DJ: A good example is the Okavango film/s where the story is about a river from end to end. But that wasn’t enough, so I re-read Dante’s Divine Comedy partly while Beverly was in hospital recovering from the buffalo attack. And in it, I found two parallels, one of our or my journey and Dante’s as he wove his way from purgatory to parade to find and be reconnected with his love (as I did, over nine months as Beverly slowly came back to life.) Regarding the journey of the river, I flipped the story in the theatrical release to start also in Purgatory (in the desert) and wind our story back to Paradise at the source. Those are the kinds of stories one tells around a campfire about the design of a hotel or camp, not always in a natural history documentary for National Geographic!
I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts, (why write yourself in as the bad guy) and we are the storytelling ape. But to us, as much as we love lions and elephants, there are opportunities as films to tell parables that hold up the mirror to our lives, so we can advance in our relationships, and in our new and renewed contract with nature.
HK: In a sentence, can you explain the synopsis’ of your next masterpieces/camp openings?
BJ: As I walked the banks of the Zambezi River, under spreading pod mahogany trees, I saw a movement in the shade; a herd of elephants ambling towards me chasing their thirst, right passed me and out onto the plains, sliding into the water, leaving me with the name for the new camp on this exact site; Tembo Plains: (elephant in Shona.)
To complete our editorial series with Exclusive Tents, we ask Paul Zway, the brand’s founder, to push the preconceptions to one side and tell us what glamping really looks like on the international hotel design scene…
The word glamping is a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping”. It was first used in the United Kingdom around 2005 and but only added to the Oxford dictionary more than a decade later.
Although the word is new, glamping in the true sense of the word has been documented for centuries and in most cases referred to a great variety of tents and canvas covered wagons. Historically it would have been more accurate to refer to the style of camping as luxurious or even opulent camping rather than glamorous camping.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents
Most of these tent constructs were constantly moved in the progression of wars or colonisation, and some designs are still used today by nomadic societies in regions such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa using a wide variety of materials including goat hair, wool felt and animal hides.
Tent frames and coverings varied greatly over the centuries from tusk, bone and stick frames with animal hide and/or vegetation coverings with cotton canvas emerging as the predominant and most practical covering whilst tent frames have also evolved to steel, turned wooden poles, bamboo and other newer more sophisticated materials.
Early tent dwelling with luxuries was evident from before the Roman era and featured prominently in Hannibal’s historic crossing of the Alps into Italy with his herd of legendary African elephants in the second of the three Punic Wars.
The Romans used tents extensively in their numerous military campaigns and occupation of other lands. During this era, tents for officers, people of status and dignitaries were mostly opulent, comfortable and luxuriously comfortable.
Perhaps the most impressive was the ottomans extensive use of tents to the extent that their encampments were so extensive that they could legitimately have been termed “tent cities”.
Through Medieval times (the Middle Ages) between the 5th and late 15th century tents in a variety of designs played a very similar roll during these turbulent times.
Native American tribes used their well-known and distinct conical tipis dating back to at least the 15th Century.
The Mongolians were famous for their yurts and it is said that Genghis Khan’s tent was so big and elaborate that is was setup upon a wheeled platform 9 meters (30 feet) in diameter and mounted on a huge wheeled cart pulled by 22 oxen.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s tents were masterpieces with 18th century tapestry and gilt embroidery and he himself through his various campaigns, spent a large portion of his active adult life living in tents.
Eskimos with their Igloo designs pre-dated the evolution of dome and bubble tents.
When participating in Hunting Safaris into India and Africa, royalty and their wealthy guests required luxuries including baths, comfortable furniture, fresh clothes and excellent food and alcohol. The British and French with their numerous wars and hunting parties gave rise to Campaign Furniture (also known as Bivouac furniture). Campaign furniture is both beautiful and compact in design, has a minimalistic footprint, is foldable, stackable and includes chest type items. Most of this furniture is made from wood, leather, and cane with brass trims. Campaign furniture with the additional refinement thereof over the years, often features in modern day glamping interiors.
In many historical traditions the tent interiors consisted of ornate carpets/rugs and pillows with colourful gilt drapery on the inside with no hard furniture except perhaps for low tables.
Modern day glamping as we now know it started in Africa around the mid 1950’s but tents were relatively small and modest with a cot, “pee pottie” (under the bed), clothes locker, metal washstand, simple folding table and chairs, and kerosene lamps. Toilets, showers and the kitchen/dining areas were mostly shared common facility areas within the camp.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents
In the 70’s and 80’s glamping took on a more serious role when tent designs became somewhat more creative and quality improved with new canvas fabrics that were more durable and 100 per cent waterproof. Even though still rustic, interiors became more comfortable creating a “cosier” atmosphere for the guests. Many of these were hunting camps and safari lodges where the tents included ensuite bathrooms that catered directly to the wealthier guests. Today glamping destinations whether large or boutique, can be found in virtually every country in the world and is affordable for many according to the degree of luxury, cuisine, experience and service.
To be true to the name, modern glamping is primarily in tents though domes, canvas covered wagons also fit the bill. However, there are also many other structures such as wooden pods/cabins, metal cubes, shipping containers, cabins, tree houses and pods – to name but a few – which are emerging at a rapid pace and being integrated into the glamping market.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents
Exclusive Tents has consciously chosen to stay true to its passion for tents and tent dwelling with our focus purely on luxury tented structures. We strive to remain masters of our domain rather than become a jack of all trades, with the clear objective of constantly improving and innovating on design, quality, elegance, craftsmanship, style and functionality.
Glamping has and will continue to evolve, particularly since Covid-19 which saw so many people locked down for extended periods of time and with so many restrictions placed on travel, in particular international travel. People are more inclined to visit local open air and natural settings to find a way to relax and feel safe with family and/or friends, seeking space, luxury and privacy in an experiential fashion – this is exactly what glamping is all about. The hospitality industry is having to evolve and adapt to meet the challenge of a post pandemic world. Wellness, wellbeing, health, nutrition, space, nature, peace of mind, and disconnection in some instances, are becoming central to this evolution.
In practical terms, there is very little that one cannot do with a tent that one can do with a conventional structure – when you know how.
Wood or aluminium framed windows and doors can be easily installed into a tent with relatively little effort though a lot of people remain nostalgic for the traditional zip-up roll-up openings.
These ‘exclusive tents’ are truly multi-functional and, as well as providing accommodation, they can be used for many other purposes and applications, they can and are also used as permanent homes.
Exclusive Tents considers multiple aspects of tent ownership and use, for example having recently developed an artistic and elegant rainwater harvesting system whereby rainwater can be stored in tanks under the tent platform or underground.
Lightning is also an issue in some places and a lightning deflection system is another unique feature that can be installed into an Exclusive Tent if required.
Certain installations will require a fire dousing sprinkler system to be incorporated into a tent, this is yet another challenge that Exclusive Tents has met and resolved.
Insulation is an increasingly important consideration in hot and cold climates, especially where a HVAC system or wood burning stove is required. Exclusive Tents has a variety of insulation options available for the canvas tent roof and walls. The insulation acts not only a thermal barrier, but also an acoustic barrier which is also an important consideration when it comes to glamping. Fireplaces or wood burning stoves commonly feature in tents: Not only to create an ambiance but to also to heat the tents during the winter months or for year-round use in high elevation locations.
Modern fireplaces are clean and very elegant and allow for installation freedom within the tent, with extraction through the floor and out from under the tent platform.
The tents are built to be functional all year round even in extreme hot (50C+) or cold (-35C) conditions.
Exclusive Tents have transitioned their tents to an extremely robust roof frame which has been engineered to resist winds up to a safe speed of 180 k/mph (without steel cable bracing lines), yet retaining the elegant roof lines and aesthetics for which they are renown. This engineering zeal accommodates high internal weight loads (lights/fans/pendants) and external loads for snow, hail, and wind.
Exclusive Tents already offer a high-end portfolio of Exclusive Campaign furniture, and will soon be manufacturing their Exclusive collections of Safari, Island, and Rustic furniture.
Whilst Exclusive Tents crafts tents designed for extreme weather conditions, they are also designed to be able to be dismantled rapidly, for example should the tents find themselves in the path of a catastrophic storm.
With this evolutionary expansion taking place in the glamping industry, it is critical to maintain privacy and enhance the connection between the living space and the natural environment. Thoughtful design, master planning, landscaping, and integration of the tent (together with its platform), will capitalise upon the full potential of good quality tents – offering an idyllic experience that seamlessly combines exquisite comfort with an unequalled connection to the natural world.
Exclusive Tents are resolutely eco-friendly, with a minimal footprint in complete alignment with the guardianship / kaitiakitanga of the environment. The direct connection between tented living space and the outside, with its closeness to nature, creates the opportunity for guests to embrace the inclusivity of mental and physical well-being. The tent is in essence a “living” structure as it ebbs and flows with nature. Spending time in a tent is experientially unique, and can offer guests the opportunity to connect with their primordial selves.
Glamping has come a long way and it most certainly presents the greatest opportunities for hospitality in this post-pandemic world.
Volumes could be written about the man who founded Exclusive Tents, as editor Hamish Kilburn comes to discover when understanding Paul Zway’s journey through tents…
Paul Zway, the founder of Exclusive Tents, grew up surrounded by nature, and his passion for all things wild and free was as much a part of him as the blood in his veins.
As a schoolboy in South Africa, his bedroom was a self-styled zoo and sanctuary for all manner of animals. The extensive list includes snakes, such as the extremely venomous green and black mambas, squirrels, bush babies, a spotted eagle owl, a bullfrog, a monitor lizard and a sun gazer lizard, a jackal, a bat eared fox and hedgehogs. These features of the young Zway’s bedroom were a reflection of his informative years spent in the outdoors camping and catching snakes whilst developing a love of wildlife and a deep appreciation for being surrounded by nature. Something that would shape his life to come.
Image caption: Paul Zane and Anders watching a python | Image credit: Exclusive Tents
School was never as exciting as the great outdoors, and a career as the youngest ever professional game ranger in the famed Kruger National Park in South Africa soon followed. It was a natural evolution for him as the wildlife in which he immersed himself, spending seventeen years working as a game ranger and specialising in anti-poaching. Zway enjoyed the opportunity to flourish within his preferred environment which also presented the chance to discover the various types of accommodation that can be found experienced in the African Savannah.
“The immense protected reserve was where his affinity with tents was born and nurtured.”
He was first stationed at a remote wattle-and-daub thatched hut that was built in 1935. Located close to the Mozambique border in the northern Kruger Park, Zway spent two years living in the hut and using a tent as his office. The immense protected reserve was where his affinity with tents was born and nurtured, as were his sons. It is therefore not a surprise that they have followed in his footsteps and share his passion for nature, tents and the great outdoors.
Image caption: Paul Zway on patrol “| Image credit: Exclusive Tents
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, rhino and elephant poaching became an organised affair and a serious problem. During this period, Zway specialised in anti-poaching and under-cover operations which led him to spend many extended periods of time camping in the bush looking for poachers or lying in wait to ambush them. These clandestine operations had a definite impact upon the poaching activities plaguing the area. With the operations occasionally leading him into direct conflict with the poachers, Zway became well known to this criminal element. If he had not had a family to care for, he would probably still be fighting the fight, however when threats were made against his sons, he chose to move his family abroad. They found themselves in Arizona in the United States and Zway, for the first time, found himself somewhat of his depth.
Zway was, and still is, an avid explorer and adventurer. More comfortable in remote and wildly beautiful places in foreign countries, where he could immerse himself in different cultures and find ways of communicating and interacting. Thus, finding himself in America was a shock to the system and he had a difficult time adapting to driving a taxi and working in convenience stores to pay the rent. Never idle, he was, at the same time, setting up his first business venture importing BBQ tools and unusual outdoor gear from South Africa.
In 2004, he was contacted by the elderly owner of a tent factory in South Africa who came to visit him and his sons in Arizona and after a few nights around the fire the decision was made to try and bring the luxury tent concept into the USA. In the latter part of his career he had discovered the use of basic luxury tents for tourists in the private game reserves on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park. This was, effectively, the origin of Today’s Glamping (a contraction of ‘Glamorous camping’).
“Spurred on by the possibilities, very little in the bank, and his eldest son Zane helping him every afternoon after school, Zway launched Exclusive Tents.”
This suited Zway perfectly as most weekends he would be out in his jeep with his sons and his dog, “Puppy”, four-wheeling in his Jeep, and camping way out in the Sonoran Desert exploring new trails and old mining ghost towns in the mountains.
Zway already had a great deal of experience in camping. During his youth and game ranger days, the campsites made use of the typical frameless green cotton canvas and windowless tents. Hot, and quick to get smelly, they also leaked if you touched the inside of the canvas during rain showers: A far cry from the tents Paul would introduce to the World as the icons of luxury safari experience.
Spurred on by the possibilities, very little in the bank, and his eldest son Zane helping him every afternoon after school, Zway launched Exclusive Tents. There was only one tent design at the time, the ever-popular Serengeti Tent. With this, so began his journey with luxury tents that would see him revolutionise the entire industry.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents International
Innovation. Detail. Vision. Mission. Passion
Exclusive Tents’ innovative approach saw them creating new designs and bigger tents, perfecting the use of the very best fabrics and materials. Every element of a tent was assessed and traditional solutions innovated upon using insulation, steel and wood elements to create elegant and seductive tents. These new tents were safer in strong winds and extreme climates, while maintaining their essential ability to blend into nature and add to the surrounding aesthetic.
As a tribute, and now a tradition, Zway has named most of the tent designs after some of Southern Africa’s most legendary elephants, both past and present.
From those early beginnings, Exclusive Tents has evolved. With business partner Johan, Exclusive Tents’ Master Canvas Crafter, and his family doing the manufacturing in South Africa while Paul’s family handle the branding, marketing and sales, Exclusive Tents soon became the “go-to” company for luxury & bespoke tent designs. A unique two-family business with an emphasis in crafting the best tents. Without ‘suits’, conveyer belts and corporate bureaucracy, it is their personable and friendly approach that opens many doors and has Exclusive Tents speaking to some serious names in hospitality and amongst royalty.
Passionate about bringing conservation services to bear and integrating wildlife conservation and ecotourism with rural development where at all possible, Exclusive Tents offer solutions that bridge the gap between the wild and the luxurious.
Interestingly, Exclusive Tents also offer containerised sanitation, desalination, hybrid power and water purification solutions to minimise the impact on the environment. Factors that make them a family for the increasingly eco-conscious hospitality sector. From the start, Paul and his team have worked hard to make sure they combine quality, aesthetics, elegance and longevity with the best customer service possible: Their approach to this has been completely in character with his life-long quest to safeguard the best that nature offers us.
Zway and his wife, Angelika, have been immersed in the jungle of Belize living permanently in their own ‘Exclusive’ tents for the past seven years. Completely in character for a man who has never learnt how to cautiously dip his toe into anything, this invaluable time and experience contributes to their understanding of both their products and what is required of them by their owners and occupiers. The last twenty-four months bear the fruit of this experience, with a complete overhaul of the entire range of luxury tents, applying a variety of innovations to ensure their continued presence as the market leaders in Luxury Tents.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents International
A critical element
The critical element Zway has found for their own home is perfecting the marriage between living space and the surrounding jungle environment. In This way nature becomes an integral part of his and Angelika’s everyday life.
Johan and his wife Susan, equally great nature lovers, are also about to commence life as “Tent Dwellers” and are constructing their own new tent home in a beautiful and remote stretch of the African wilderness.
With both partners of Exclusive Tents living permanently in their own creations, it is living proof of the viability, versatility, and charm of living in thoughtfully designed and lovingly crafted luxury tents.
As undertaken in their own homes, Exclusive Tents team work with clients to achieve the most from choosing tents. There a numerous advantages to a life under canvas, whether in a personal or commercial context: The ‘footprint’ upon the environment is significantly reduced with no need for heavy infrastructure, land grading, heavy foundations, etc.; A site can very quickly be returned to its natural state when it is time to move on; Both powerful reasons to adopt a luxury existence under canvas, especially in beautiful, sensitive, or fragile environments such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Zway and his team are always pleased to help others explore the wildest ideas, for example the floating tents at four Rivers Floating Lodge.
Exclusive Tents has built a reputation of offering quality tented solutions that has resulted in many loyal customer relationships. “It is with much delight that I write to recommend the services (both supply and install) of Exclusive Tents and in particular, Paul Zway,” explained Robert A. Virgin from Limited Edition Hotels and Resorts. “We have worked with Exclusive Tents for the past 10 years, during which time they have been involved in the supply and installation of 10 tents over three separate projects on our Kasbah Tamadot property in Morocco.”
Zway believes that the Glamping sector will be one of the first hospitality sectors to recover from the impact of Covid 19 as people will want to reconnect and ground themselves in nature. The attributes of luxury tent lodges – their spaciousness & the space separating them – are ideally suited to these times. Furthermore, many people will not be traveling abroad for unique experiential vacations but finding these experiences closer to home.
As such, we may be at the forefront of a new chapter of hospitality, where the ‘Tent Dweller’ is king!
Exclusive Tents International is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.
Thinking about going on a Safari to the heart of the African bush or glamping during the hot summer months of Europe? Well there is nothing more refreshing and relaxing than washing off the adrenalin of adventure in a sparkling, clear pool.
Adding a swimming pool to your hotel or tented lodge in cities of towns doesn’t seem too big of a problem, but adding swimming pools in rural, remote locations can pose some difficulties. Yes, one can build a pool on site, with local labour and sufficient time, everything is possible.
At Bushtec Creations, we have different options available when it comes to swimming pools. Our DIY ready-to-assemble pools are hands down a winner for sure when it comes to remote areas. It is innovative, stylish, and elegantly designed with natural beautiful wood, which is the perfect complement to your tented camp/resort. The outer wooden structure of the pool is manufactured to exacting standards from high quality, pressure impregnated, dried and oiled, dense Scandinavian timber, fitting perfectly into any garden or location, in total harmony with its surroundings.
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
With Bushtec Creations, there are quite a few different ways to incorporate swimming pools in your tented camp/lodge/resort. Depending on each client’s requirements and the site layout, you may only want to have one communal pool forming as part of your main area or you might also want to add smaller private plunge pools or Jacuzzis at each tented guest unit which is what happens in most cases. Some cultures prefer private pool at each tent in terms of their customs. It is a good alternative then to add a reflecting pool to your reception tent which can set the tone of a peaceful and harmonic sanctuary where one can sit and reflect.
We have also found that guests at tented lodges prefer private pools, guests visiting these lodges are there to relax, go on game drives and capture the wildness of the African bush, whereas guests at glamping sites in Europe come back from an adventure with the family and don’t mind take a refreshing swim in communal pools. This also helps to reduce the noise levels at the guest units if families are at the communal pools.
Image credit: Bushtec Creative
Spas can also play a big role in your tented camp and can be immensely beneficial. When tourists look for tented camps as part of their vacation destinations, a spa would encourage them to add this to their itinerary.
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
Let’s be honest, how many people can say that they have had spa treatments in a luxury tent before? Not as many right? Tented camps/resorts are trending significantly on a global scale and you definitely want all the “most wanted” added benefits as part of your investment. Your spa’s can also be designed, like your entire camp, just the way you want it.
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
You can have a specific section of your tented camp/resort dedicated to an entire communal spa area which could include multiple spa tents for couples, each with their own inside Jacuzzi, or you can have a few private spa units separated by quite a distance, each with their own plunge pool and firepit to add to the ambience. Then again you can keep it simple with just one spa unit within your tented camp/resort which mainly caters for treatments. Your spa units would in most cases have the same designed “look and feel” as the rest of the tents so that your camp has a unified design throughout.
Image credit: Bushtec Creative
Bushtec Creations has the added benefit of having a dedicated in-house design team who takes all natural surroundings and outdoor elements into consideration when designing your tented camp/resort, aiming for your investment to be in harmony with the outdoors surrounding it. We are also very focused on making sure we create an environmentally friendly tented camp/resort so as to ensure that your natural habitat is looked after. Being aware of the minimal impact wanted on natural environments, we can create tented camps/resorts with the lightest footprint possible specifically to preserve the natural habitat and we have all relevant materials and technology to comply with this requirement.
We can create your tented camp/resort suited to your desired requirements ensuring a great return on investment!
Bushtec Creations is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.
INDUSTRY INSIGHT: The art of designing safari tents
For more than 16 years, and with international celebrities, boutique resorts and government departments as its customers and friends, Exclusive Tents International has become one of the leading global suppliers of safari style camps and accommodation in every shape and size. Writer Donnie Rust, the founder of Lost Executive, explores the family business…
This wonderful family business, Exclusive Tents International has reached this level by the simplest approach of style, quality and authenticity and as founder Paul Zway reveals, there is very little stopping them.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents international
That one inspiring idea
“The creative process begins with getting one solid idea and building on that,” Zway explains. “Everything else is just decoration and details until you have that one brilliant and inspiring idea that makes you want to start to build something. That is where everything begins.”
This period of the project, where ideas are harnessed, is Zway’s favourite part, and has become a fundamental part of his business around which all that Exclusive Tents offer revolves. The man is, by nature, an incredibly forthcoming and friendly person who takes the time to know his clients, his staff and suppliers on a first name basis. He is a man who loves the details of things and thrives on the challenge that an ever increasing and developing hospitality world throw at him and his company.
“Whether a project needs a tent to be constructed entirely from scratch, or if a tent style we already have meets the physical requirements, each and every project is unique because a client’s dream is unique. And dreams always come with challenges,” he adds. “Some of these challenges can be spotted and solved ahead of time. This is where experience is crucial because it allows us to spot challenges before they become problems for clients. It also makes you very able to handle issues when they pop up unexpectedly.”
Image credit: Exclusive Tents International
Living the life
Clients of Exclusive Tents International have described the company with words such as “industry leader” and “pioneer” and they have the results to back up such praise. They’ve been involved in designing and setting up tent structures for as varied a client base as glamping sites, safari lodges, five star award winning hotels and environmentally fastidious eco-lodges. It could be argued that their “never say never” approach to challenges has helped such industries as glamping and safari to reach their lofty standards on “out-of-the-ordinary-accommodation”. An entire industry has sprouted around the idea that safe, eco-conscious and versatile accommodation can exist anywhere on the planet and one man’s inability to turn down a challenge is partly to blame.
This may seem hyperbolic, but Zway spends a great deal of time flying across the world and speaking to CEOs, hospitality moguls and millionaires who have an idea that seems impossible but they want it made into reality.
“You can never mislead a client or tell them something can be done just to make them happy,” he says, “Truth and transparency is something my whole company values. However, you have to believe that there is a way to get to the end result. It may take a bit longer than a client would like or it may be more expensive, but there is always a way.”
Zway has spent most of his adult life in or around tents. As a professional game ranger specialising in anti-poaching, a career he devoted seventeen years of his life to, he spent many nights sleeping in tents. Some would say that the founding of Exclusive Tents International was almost inevitable. His son, Zane, is also a vital part of the business which revolves around thinking differently and always looking at things from a different perspective.
“This is why we can offer revolutionary designs and superior products,” Zway explains, “We all travel extensively and I live in one of my own tents! So, call it an insider’s perspective, but while a client may be thinking of their vision we’re thinking about the material needed to survive the weather conditions, or what sort of wear and tear can be expected. How will all the details affect the final result and how well it will age?”
It’s no surprise that the company offers over sixty designs and customisable options which is one of the largest selections in the market today. Always fabricated with the finest materials, erected with the best expertise and then backed up with the best after-sales service. Something that he is proud of is that their products are not produced on a soulless conveyer belt and that he has been able to craft a business where quality and that personal touch counts for so much.
“We’ve never had a problem with aftersales service,” Zway remarks, “We treat our clients like family and every client feels that they’ve got the full strength of Exclusive Tents International behind them. Every one of our engineers, interior designers, architects, set up specialists and consultants are there for them to see their vision through.”
Image credit: Exclusive Tents International
Bringing people and nature together
“There is a romance that comes with sleeping in a luxury tent that you will not find anywhere else,” Zway says, “It can bring you right up against nature without actually dropping you in it.”
The ultimate ‘have your cake and eat it’ scenario, Paul is passionate about helping people connect with nature and to better understand their parts of the world. He reveals that a big part of his business has always been to find ways of marrying living spaces with nature and the environment. He believes that this is a fundamental human need that we naturally seek out whenever we can and that industries like glamping were destined to grow. Glamping offers peace, space, tranquility and the chance to connect with nature without being engulfed in a crowd.
Thanks to this he believes that these boutique and creativity-driven sectors like glamping and eco-camping, are in a great position to see a resurgence of popularity post Lockdown that will outclass other groups in hospitality.
“Travel is going to be centred around escaping cities and apartment buildings for a while with people wanting to get back into nature,” he says, “Glamping offers a great chance for this to happen as well as offering the freedom of space.”
Additionally, thanks to many glamping sites promoting privacy and solitude as part of their offering, Paul points out that social distancing will be able to be affected without seeming to be enforced.
“People will be able to enjoy open space, reconnect with nature and spend some precious time looking up at that massive sky and just breathe in the fresh air,” he says.
Image credit: Exclusive Tents International
Innovation as a tool to meet a client’s current needs and to predict and prepare for their future ones is important. Zway is a big advocate for natural product evolution and change based upon the research and responses from clients. He is also a big believer in making hay while the sun shines. During Lockdown they made time to innovate and craft a new family tent design that has a new look and feel. The tent, named Mabarule after one of the legendary wild African elephants will be available by the end of May and it’s going to be a gamechanger.
In the same regard as this period has all been about keeping the family safe Marabule is a continuation of that. Paul explains that they have the most robust roof frames on the market to handle snow and wind loads and the best performing acoustic and thermal insulation available. Master planning and expert interior design is available for the inside living space which also comes with a number of containerised solutions including hybrid power, kitchens, sanitation, water purification and desalination.
“Marabule really is a masterpiece, and a credit to the incredible resilience and flexibility of the Exclusive Tents team,” Zway says, “There is an endless list of innovation that has gone into this new design which has made it easier to erect yet more secure. The metal components are even more rust resistant yet still being aesthetically pleasing. The material is completely flame retardant and, using unique sandwiching techniques is extra insulated to keep out the elements and keep the comfort in. It is a marvellous accomplishment by a team I am very proud to be involved with.”
Exclusive Tents International is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.
Hotel being formed from train carriages on bridge in Africa
The train hotel, which will be called Kruger Shalati, is under construction on the Selati Bridge in South Africa’s Kruger National Park…
Talk about a one-off travel experience. Unmatched views of the South African wildlife in Kruger National Park will soon be spectacularly framed from the vantage point of a new 31-key luxury hotel that will be formed from a set of 13 restored train carriages on a disused bridge.
Kruger Shalati is expected to offer a unique luxury accommodation in the re-envisioned train which will pay homage to the guests who explored the park nearly 100 years ago while welcoming new explorers from near and far. The hotel’s location marks where the first visits to the iconic park were allowed in the early 1920s (the train would park overnight in the exact spot where Kruger Shalati will be positioned.)
Image credit: Kruger Shalati
Renderings of the new hotel show how the carriages will merge together and perch over the Sabie River on the Selati Bridge. The glass-walled, large train rooms will allow for infinite views along the length of the majestic river below, while the style of the train is a celebration of African design in collaboration with local art and crafting skills. Despite the architectural challenges, its renderings suggest that the hotel will feature decking, carious view points and even a private plunge pool.
Image credit: Kruger Shalati
“Even though we’re experiencing a nationwide lockdown, the excitement of the outdoors grows stronger and stronger,” the hotel wrote in a statement on Instagram. “We’re looking forward to heading back to construction on the Kruger Shalati Train on a Bridge. and experiencing the beauty of its surroundings.”
The hotel, which is described on its website as “an express entryway to freedom, relaxation and meaningful connection,” is still under construction.
INDUSTRY INSIGHT: The role main areas play in tented lodges & camps
As the modern luxury traveller demands more one-off experiences, there has been rise in demand for lodges and camps. Hotel Designs asks the experts at Bushtec Creations to explain how designers can utilise a hotel’s main areas in these accommodation styles…
In short, your main area can be whatever you want it to be. Having a successful main are however, now that is where the secret lies.
First impressions are the ones that last. The moment a guest steps into the main area, a tone or impression will be set that they will expect from their stay, and it helps to dare to push the boundaries and be different. When it comes to luxury tented main areas, Bushtec Safari and Bushtec Creations has many years’ experience and products well suited to be used whereby the guests’ first impression will surely be one of amazement with the type of luxury, comfort and beauty these classic tents hold.
When it comes to tented resorts or tented hotels, first you need to determine how many guests your tented lodge/camp will be accommodating so that you can make sure you have a spacious enough main area. Then, you need to consider the design you are trying to create, specially for the roof, and aim to keep the same design flowing straight throughout your camp.
You also need to consider your location and space you have available for the development of your camp, so as to determine whether you will have one large main unit, or rather a main area made up of several smaller tents.
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
Think about what you want included in your main area. We have done several camps with main areas and not 1 camp is the same. You can have a main area that only includes a dining facility, you can have a main area that consists of multiple functional areas including a reception area, a lounge where your guests can relax, socialise, read books, access the restrooms, be near a bar area where your guests can sit and enjoy refreshments. Apart from this, you can even decide to include a sushi bar, which will take your main area to the next level.
Now let’s speak ambience. Want to add a fireplace but not sure if it can be one in a tent? Of course you can! With Bushtec Creations anything is possible. Adding a fireplace is also dependant on your location, you won’t necessarily want to add a fireplace if you are located in the desert at 40 degrees for most of the year, however with that being said, most locations can do with a fireplace and you can’t go wrong with adding one.
Now that we have covered the inside characteristics of your main area, let’s have a look at what you can do outside. That’s right, there is more! Most main areas will include a swimming pool on the front deck with some sort of remarkable view, cocktail table spread across the deck with umbrellas and even a fire pit to have memorable nights covered by a billion stars.
Your kitchen can also form as part of your main area and be enclosed for aesthetic purposes, however this also varies from one lodge owner to another. Alternatively you can have your kitchen apart from your main area connecting it with a walkway to create easy access for your personnel.
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
Image credit: Bushtec Creations
The options of connecting your main area with your accommodation units also plays a part in the entirety of your lodge/camp. You may want to connect the units with walkways throughout your entire camp, or you can leave your units separated should you wish to not stop wildlife from moving throughout the camp.
With all of the various considerations involved in creating your perfect tented lodge/camp, you still don’t have to feel overwhelmed as our Bushtec Creations team has years of experience to guide you through the process from start to finish. We have our own passionate in-house design team who does regular site visits across the globe. Several discussions will be held to determine your exact requirements and the latest technology is used to create a virtual render of your entire camp to showcase your project so that you will know what to expect.
In closing, your main area plays a substantial role in your tented camp/lodge and is ultimately where your guests will get together to relax, eat and socialise. This is where you want them to feel at home and keep them coming back for more. A tented lodge main area is the biggest asset not only for you as the lodge owner, but also for your guests.
Bushtec Creations is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.
In Conversation With: Geraldine Dohogne, former designer at Zannier Hotels
The designer behind many of Zannier Hotels’ authentic properties, Geraldine Dohogne, is expanding her horizons to go solo on the international design scene. Speaking exclusively to editor Hamish Kilburn, the designer unveils the truth behind her unorthodox arrival into the industry, discusses the challenges she encountered when designing many of Zannier Hotels’ success stories and explains why the meaning of ‘lifestyle’ in design is rapidly changing…
It comes as somewhat of a surprise – I was almost lost for words – when Geraldine Dohogne tells me that she didn’t have any design experience whatsoever prior to when she was handed the reigns to become Zannier Hotels’ Head of Design. In fact, she was not a designer at all, nor was she some talented ‘inner designer’ who was trapped in an architect’s title, which is not uncommon in this industry. Armed with simply an international business degree and a naturally acute eye for detail, Dohogne proved that you didn’t require a design degree to become a top-notch designer.
Image caption: The open-air design of Zannier Hotels Sonop allows a connection between nature and its guests | Image credit: Tibodhermy for Zannier Hotels
That’s not to say that anyone can be a designer – far from it. Spending time with Dohogne, who accurately, in my opinion, describes herself as a designer by passion, allows one to see beyond the brilliant brand her name has been aligned to for years.
We meet in Mayfair’s The Conduit, an airy private members club that was once described by GQ Magazine as a place that provides the brightest minds with the opportunities to meet up and thrash out new ideas. It all sounds wonderfully fitting as it has also become one of Dohogne’s favourite places to work from in recent years.
“I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee.” – Géraldine Dohogne.
Although it may read shocking to some that a curious mind with no design background was asked to lead an entire luxury brand’s design ethos, Dohogne, for many reasons, was the perfect person for the job. For starters, she arguably knew the DNA of Zannier Hotels better than any established designer on the scene did. “I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee,” she explains. “I started in development and also did my time in operations before working in the design department. I mostly worked on my own, doing all the ordering and specifying by myself. It was at this point when I truly believe that my degree in international business kept me organised, focused and on track.”
It’s hard to believe that the premium hotel brand that has been so influential on the luxury travel and design scenes only launched its first property in 2011. It all started in The Alps with the opening of Le Chalet in Megéve. However, considering at the time the brand had already purchased land, properties, and had projects on the drawing boards in Asia and Europe, Zannier Hotels was considered an international player from the moment it was born.
“Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” – Géraldine Dohogne.
Its unorthodox approach to luxury in both design and service soon gave it its esteemed award-winning reputation. The same way of thinking, I see, is shared – dare I say inspired – by the designer who is sat casually and confidently in front of me in a cosy beige jumper and blue jeans. “Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” she says, “My curiosity in interiors and luxury travel was married up to the brand’s vision.”
Image caption: Interiors inside one of the hut-like guestrooms at Zannier Hotels Omaanda | Zannier Hotels
Image caption: The effortlessly design, luxury pool at Zannier Hotels Omaanda | Image credit: Zannier Hotels
For all designers, however many years’ experience they have amassed (or not), all projects come with a number of different challenges. One of Dohnogne’s most memorable projects was 1988 The Post, an intimate hotel in Ghent, Belgium, that shelters no more than 38 keys. The boutique hotel has been inspired by the old post office building’s 19th century architecture and charm. “Inside, all the fabrics, materials, lighting and colours were inspired by the atmosphere of a post office and from the building period,” the designer explains. The rooms were decorated in a warm style – with high ceilings, dark green walls and antique furniture – complementing the building’s former life.
Image caption: 1988 The Post became one of Dohogne’s most challenging design briefs, because of the building’s irregular architecture and heritage in Ghent, Belgium
Although each hotel under the Zannier umbrella is unique to the destination, each follow the same journey of discovery when it comes to establishing the interior scheme and overall narrative. “We always look beyond the obvious,” says Dohogne. “Most of the antiques are sourced locally, which can be harder in some places than others.” For the brand’s most recent hotel in Namibia, more than 550 antiques were handpicked by Dohogne and injected into the property’s interiors that were uniquely constructed on stilts atop of natural boulders in the middle of the Namib desert.
Right when you thought Zannier Hotels had reached its limit of creativity, it is about to open the authentic doors of its next hotel, which will be situated in Vietnam. It’s 75 suites and villas will be sheltered under three various architectural styles, each of them melting into the lush natural background while referencing the local Ede and canal houses that are culturally embedded in Phu Yen (Vietnam). “Most of the villas and suites will have private pools and the public areas will be on the 1km-stretch of beach,” she explains. “The restaurants will really re-discover Vietnamese cuisine.”
Image caption: A sneak peek of the interiors inside the soon-to-open Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang, designed by Dohogne | Image credit: Zannier Hotels
While Dohogne continues to piece together Zannier Hotels’ vision of future properties with timeless interiors, in January 2020 embarked on a new, personal and profession journey; branching off to become a solo designer no restricted to hotel design. “It’s a new challenge,” she says, “but when you are challenged, you can bring much more to the drawing board. There is a gap in the market for high-end lifestyle projects in Europe and beyond.”
HK: What’s a trend that you hope will never return? GD: I believe that if you want a project to be ‘timeless’, it should not follow a trend.
HK: What’s the most difficult project you have worked on?
GD: 1988 The Post was challenging because it was an existing building.
HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without? GD: My Swimming costume and my noise-cancelling Bose headphones.
HK: What does luxury mean to you? GD: A place where you can disconnect with technology and the world, and where you can feel at home.
HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list? GD: Antarctica, Japan and Argentina.
HK: What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
GD: Always show your work to a lot of people, and always question yourself until you are 100 per cent sure.
HK: When you pitch an idea, do you keep an open window? GD: Yes, because the world has changed so much from the beginning of a hotel project to the end.
For more than year now, Dohogne has been setting up the foundations of her own design studio. What strikes me is the link between the authenticity of Zannier Hotels’ expansion and the journey that the designer is also on. Although there is yet a comment as to what projects she is working on, it is clear that Dohogne is meaningfully expanding her reaches to purposefully design a new era of high-end lifestyle social areas and workspaces. Her journey in design continues…
Marking the conclusion of Hotel Designs’ series to discover hotels that are naturally self-isolating in style, editor Hamish Kilburn metaphorically explores some of the world’s most detached destinations…
For four weeks now, I have researched some of the world’s most secluded hotels that are self-isolating in style. Part four in the series has taken me to the furthest-reaching regions where social distancing comes naturally.
Following on from parts one,two and three in this series, Hotel Designs continues to start the week during lockdown with some Monday motivation to explore a handful of hidden, untouched luxury gems.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel, a Queenstown icon, provides fine accommodation in five luxurious suites in an historic building situated on a premium lakefront position.
The hotel under the historic building reflects contemporary, provincial elegance — its modern features in perfect harmony with distinctive antiques and luxurious furnishings. The opulent suites invite guests to soak up a sense of quiet before exploring one of the world’s truly remarkable locations. The confident strokes and flawless symmetry, which are the hallmarks of New Zealand designer Virginia Fisher, are married seamlessly with every amenity you would expect in a world-class hotel.
Saffire Freycinet provides an authentic and immersive connection to the magnificent Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay in Tasmania. Distinct in its design, exclusive in its features and set apart by its approach to individually tailored experiences and service, Saffire features 20 private suites, a luxury day spa, an unforgettable culinary offering and so much more.
On the shores of Ago Bay, Amanemu’s rustic ryokan-inspired retreat is where Japan’s ancient hospitality ritual finds its contemporary expression. Mineral-rich waters from a natural hot spring enable guests to embrace the tradition of onsen bathing – while nourishment in culinary form reflects a region famed for rare delicacies. Surrounded by Unesco pilgrim trails, sacred forests and the diving culture of the pearl-rich Pacific, here, rejuvenative stays and wellness experiences are imbued with a deeper cultural sensibility.
An Lam Retreats Ninh Van Bay is the perfect destination for personal comfort, relaxation and rejuvenation from the bustling life, ideally for those seeking a genuine retreat. The resort is ideal to connect with nature with contemporary chic architecture meeting natural elegance in interior designs, blended with a Vietnamese touch of each villa makes your own private hideaway.
Built entirely on stilts connected through sturdy elevated wooden decks, Zannier Hotels Sonop’s tents are covered by an elegant canvas, designed to harmonise perfectly with the surrounding environment. Shaped in an oval formation facing out towards the spectacular landscape, the tents offer comfort to cater for today’s discerning travellers whilst also avoiding soil erosion and ensuring the preservation of the insects, fauna and flora that make up the Namibian desert dune ecosystem.
Nestled in a sheltered bay on Mozambique’s Lagoon Coast, poised amongst the dunes on timber stilts, our 22 luxurious suites have been sensitively designed to take advantage of their beautiful natural setting, while protecting the fragile eco-systems beneath them. Cool, clean lines, contemporary furniture and a palette inspired by the surrounding coastal landscape, make for a getaway out of this world.
The editorial series continues with part three, as editor Hamish Kilburn mentally checks in to some of the best hotels that are self-isolating in style…
The weeks are starting to feel like years. As the number of cases of COVID–19 increases day-by-day, so too do our social restrictions. From our new-found goldfish bowl perspective on the world, travel is beginning to feel like a distant memory.
Following on from parts one and two in this series, Hotel Designs continues to start the week during lockdown with some Monday motivation, – a non-permanent day-dream, if you like – to explore some of the world’s hidden luxury gems. Here are a handful of hotels that are naturally self-isolating in style.
Image caption: Spa Pool Villa’s Living Room | Image credit: Dharana at Shillim
Spread over 3,000 acres of its own fertile valley, Dharana at Shillim used a completely local work force to respectfully build 23 rooms and three Presidential Villas within the forest. Each room celebrates the nature they’re in while also paying homage to Indian local design. The roofs are made out of tin, as a reflection of the village homes surrounding Shillim, and also to heighten the sound of the rain during monsoon season, reminding guests that nature rules here.
The mirrorcube structure was launched as an “exciting hide-out among the trees, camouflaged by mirrored walls that reflect their surroundings.” Its base consists of an aluminium frame around the tree trunk and the walls are covered with reflective glass. The interior is designed from plywood with a birch surface. The total of six windows provide a stunning panoramic view. A 12-meter-long bridge leads up to the tree room.
Nestled within a 123,000-acre (55,000 hectres) wild game reserve, Matetsi Victoria Falls is arguably the most self-isolated hotel in the world. The hotel has been constructed to blend into its natural surroundings. The interiors, designed by local designer Kerry van Leenhoff, have been sensitively created to evoke sense-of-place at every turn.
Artist Helen Teede spent much time on site at Matetsi in order to find the inspiration of a unique collection of 18 paintings entitled ‘Mapping Matetsi’. Having done extensive walks and drives in the area, Teede divided the cartographic map of Matetsi unit seven into 18 parts and drew it to scale on each canvas, adding her own impressions of the river, the landscape and the pathways walked in the area, both man and animal-made. These 18 paintings hang separately in each suite. However, put together and these pieces of art actually form the aerial map of the reserve.
Severin*s is an uber-luxe hotel in Lech, situated in the Arlberg region which is part of Austria’s largest inter-connected ski areas. It set a new design standard in an otherwise predominantly traditional hotel landscape – Severin*s oozes James Bond glamour with pine interiors, fires in the rooms and fur throws.
The luxury hotel shelters just nine exclusive super-suites, each with private terraces and mountain views, a private four-bed Residence and an indoor luxury spa.
The design of Heritance Aarah compliments the group Aitken Spence Hotels’ policy of sustainability by implementing components such as fuel saving generators, energy saving LED lighting, water saving fixtures and energy efficient air conditioning. The premium all-inclusive resort boasts 150 villas, six restaurants, five bars, a PADI dive centre and the first of its kind IASO Medi Spa.
Zannier Hotels opens property atop boulders in the Namib desert – built on stilts
Comprising of ten luxury tents, Zannier Hotels Sonop has been cleverly constructed atop a group of boulders, affording spectacular, unmatched 360-degree views of the Southern Namib desert…
Arnaud Zannier’s inspiration for the hotel’s design was conceived during his very first trip to the site and first view from the top of the boulders. Arnaud recognised that he had been fortunate enough to discover somewhere very special, likening the feeling to an old explorer discovering a destination for the first time – hence the property was designed to resemble a 20th Century tented camp for explorers.
The construction process was challenging due to the hotel’s remote location and protected surroundings. All building materials and interiors were manually transported up the huge boulders, by expert craftsmen from Namibia. Zannier Hotels only used a limited number of existing roads to the site, to ensure the human impact on the fragile flora was minimal. In addition, each piece of furniture, including twelve 30kg handcrafted four-poster beds, had to be carried by hand over the rocks and boulders thereby avoiding the use of disruptive machinery.
Image credit: Zannier Hotels
Image credit: Zannier Hotels/Tibod Hermy
Built entirely on stilts connected through sturdy elevated wooden decks, Zannier Hotels Sonop’s tents are covered by an elegant canvas, designed to harmonise perfectly with the surrounding environment. Shaped in an oval formation facing out towards the spectacular landscape, the tents offer comfort to cater for today’s discerning travellers whilst also avoiding soil erosion and ensuring the preservation of the insects, fauna and flora that make up the Namibian desert dune ecosystem.
Image credit: Zannier Hotels/Tibod Hermy
Image credit: Zannier Hotels/Tibod Hermy
Each tent has been devised to invite guests to live the life of intrepid explorers from the early 20th Century, whilst the materials and colour palette have been selected to complement the surrounding desert and blend into the boulders. Zannier Hotels Interior team only worked with natural textures and materials including dead wood, rocks, mud and thatch to ensure that nature remained at the forefront of the design. Not to mention, the spa at Sonop has been designed to resemble the rich traditions of the Owambo tribes in terms of its interiors, its construction and the materials used. The Owambo are admired for their respectful attitude towards nature – values that Zannier Hotels maintain.
“Rather than buying new furniture, Zannier Hotels endeavoured to reuse as much as possible – preference was always given to antiques.”
All tents feature a large bedroom, living room area and a separate bathroom with a large bathtub and rain shower. Furnishings include dressing tables with ornate objects, such as tiny flasks and antique combs. Moreover, the ceiling to floor windows allow guests to experience a taste of living in complete isolation, immersed in the surrounding landscape. The bedrooms feature handcrafted king size four-poster beds, an airy living area with comfortable armchairs, and a telescope to look out into the distant surroundings or gaze into Namibia’s dark sky reserve.
Image credit: Zannier Hotels
Complete with private terraces that extend out across large wooden decks, the tents offer magnificent views of the desert. Rather than buying new furniture, Zannier Hotels endeavoured to reuse as much as possible – preference was always given to antiques. Zannier Hotels sourced more than 550 antiques for Zannier Hotels Sonop, including binoculars, maps, mirrors, magnifying glasses, bedside tables, carpets, trunks, armchairs and picture frames, as well as unique ornaments such as gramophones, 19th Century explorer boots, vintage walking sticks and historical Pith helmets. Any new furniture was specifically made from Namibian materials by local architects, carpenters and construction suppliers, native to Namibia.
The brand Radisson will become Radisson Hotel Group’s fourth brand and 13th hotel to open in the area and will take the group’s portfolio to almost 100 hotels in operation and under development.
The new 138-key hotel will comprise of rooms and suites, coupled with Radisson’s Scandinavian-inspired hospitality and unique brand features. Guests will be able to indulge in local and international cuisine at the all-day dining restaurant. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar and coffee lounge overlooking the infinite and tranquil landscape as well as the pool bar and traditional lapa, with the majestic Drakensberg as a backdrop.
“We are thrilled to introduce the Radisson brand to South Africa with our first safari-inspired hotel in the country,” said Elie Younes, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Radisson Hotel Group. “The hotel will be the perfect complement for our other hotels in South Africa.”
Gerrit Jan van der Grijn, CEO of the Lowland Group, developer and owner of the hotel, added: “It is an honour to be partnering with the Radisson Hotel Group to introduce the Radisson brand to South Africa and welcome the first safari-style hotel to the Group’s African portfolio. The hotel will most certainly uplift the area with the credibility that the Radisson Hotel Group brings as the first international hotel brand in the region. We look forward to a flourishing and long-standing partnership with the Group and together opening the doors in 2022.”
With the rise of blesuire travellers, the hotel will also boast an expansive meeting and events area, which will include contemporary and versatile venues, from a conference centre to various meeting and board rooms which lead onto a spacious pre-function area and a business centre.
Air connectivity, better economic growth, currency and demographics are the four factors recently identified as being the catalysts for hotel development in West Africa.
Today, Africa is seen as one of the most promising regions for hotel developers. Aside from small chains and independents, four global hotel groups dominate signings and openings on the continent.
Over the last four rolling quarters, as of September 2019, Accor, Hilton, Marriott International and Radisson Hotel Group have opened 2,800 rooms and signed deals for 6,600 rooms. Across Africa, hotel development remains important in most advanced economies, such as Morocco and South Africa; and projects are multiplying in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In West Africa, Nigeria is back on the development scene thanks to emerging regional destinations beyond Abuja and Lagos. Francophone Africa is also moving fast. The Ministry of Tourism of Ivory Coast has launched an ambitious national plan for tourism development, Sublime Cote d’Ivoire, and already announced more than US$1bn investment in the sector. Senegal is the other regional star, with local programmes such as Diamnadio, Lac Rose near Dakar and Pointe Sarene. Other countries showing active hotel development include Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Togo.
Now, in an interview, Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, West Africa’s leading hospitality consultant, in conjunction with the Forum de l’Investissement Hôtelier Africain (FIHA), the premier hotel investment conference in Francophone Africa, has identified four fundamental factors which are fuelling an increasing flow of investment into the hospitality sector in West Africa. They are, in alphabetical order: Air connectivity, Better economic growth, Currency and Demographics.
“According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals in Africa grew by seven per cent in 2018, one of the fastest growth rates in the world together with East Asia and the Pacific.”
In the past few years, additional flight connections have transformed travel to and from West Africa, which, in the words of Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, has been a game changer. He said: “It used to be that the main hubs for flying between West African countries were Paris and Casablanca. However, thanks to the rapid growth of Ethiopian Airlines and other carriers, such as Emirates, Kenya Airways and Turkish, the situation has changed; and new routes are offered to travellers. For example, it is now possible to fly direct from New York to Abidjan, where the African Development Bank is located, and to Lomé, where the Central Bank of West African States (BOAD) is situated… and with increased travel comes increased commerce and demand for accommodation.”
According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals in Africa grew by seven per cent in 2018, one of the fastest growth rates in the world together with East Asia and the Pacific. The flight data analyst, ForwardKeys, recently confirmed that trend continuing. In 2019, African aviation experienced 7.5 per cent growth and it is the stand-out growth market for Q1 2020. As at January 1, international outbound bookings were ahead 12.5 per cent, 10.0 per cent to other African countries and ahead 13.5 per cent to the rest of the world. As a destination, Africa is also set to do well, as bookings from other continents are currently ahead by 12.9 per cent.
The second factor is the superior economic growth of many West African countries, which are expanding substantially faster than many of the world’s most advanced economies. According to World Bank data for 2018, several, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal are growing at six per cent per annum or better, more than double the world average, three per cent. That is a potent attraction to international investors. However, that’s not all; as prosperity grows domestically, so too does the local financial services industry. It then looks to invest client monies; and a good proportion of that capital gravitates towards real estate projects and, in turn, new domestic infrastructure. As those projects come to fruition, more prosperity is generated and so a virtuous cycle is stimulated, which acts as a catalyst for further economic development.
Currency is the third factor. Later this year, the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, is planned to be dropped and 15 countries in West Africa (ECOWAS) will adopt the Eco, a new, free-floating, common currency, designed to reduce the cost of doing business between them and so increase trade. However, whilst there is great enthusiasm for the Eco, it is somewhat qualified because the economies of participating countries are at different stages of development and governments may find it difficult to adhere to agreed guidelines for managing their economies.
The fourth factor is demographics. The population is young and the fastest growing of any major world region. According to Doizelet, it is also characterised by a hunger to learn and confidence about the future. “People are seeing their standards of living improve and they are keen to seize opportunities. We are seeing that mindset reflected throughout the hospitality industry; it’s incredibly refreshing and it’s attracting business.” He explained.
“Africa is not the easiest place to do business, but it is an incredibly exciting place because the opportunities substantially outweigh the threats.” – Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events.
However, the picture is not all rosy. Horwath HTL also identifies four factors which threaten economic progress; they are security issues, political agenda, governance and increasing public debt. Although Africa today experiences much less conflict than it did three or four decades ago, when most African countries experienced war, some parts of the Sahel are still subject to security threats. On the political front, although democracy is continuing to spread, it is not yet the general rule everywhere, especially when come the times of major elections. Third is governance. Doizelet adds: “When people are poor and the state is weak, there will be corruption, but I’m not convinced that it is much worse than in other parts of the world.” The fourth concern is rising public debt, much of which has been incurred as long-term loans from the Chinese to build infrastructure. That said, the debt to GDP ratio of many West African states is still less than many highly developed nations.
Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, which organises FIHA, concluded: “Africa is not the easiest place to do business, but it is an incredibly exciting place because the opportunities substantially outweigh the threats. Every time we organise a hotel investment forum, I see more hotel openings being announced and I meet new players keen to enter the market. The FIHA delegates are literally constructing the future of Africa in front of our eyes and anyone who attends the conference has the opportunity to join in.”
FIHA takes place at the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, March 23-25.
Main image credit: Hotel Bab Rimal, Foum Zguid, Morocco
Following its history as a coconut plantation, the granitic island is now a sanctuary for endangered species; luminous beaches and clear blue seas welcome nesting sea turtles, and the Palm forests are home to giant Aldabra tortoises and rare Seychelles white-eye birds.
The island has been expertly designed and with pioneering conservation programs, offers the highest standards of hospitality, earning them status as an award-winning sustainable travel destination. With a mission to demonstrate that luxury with a conscience can co-exist, sustainability lies at the heart of North Island’s philosophy and will be further embraced and supported with The Luxury Collection. The operational responsibility of the resort will remain with ASMALLWORLD, the world’s leading travel & lifestyle community.
“North Island has always skilfully combined a sustainable and environmentally conscious management philosophy with the ambition to provide a truly immersive, barefoot-luxury experience,” said CEO of ASMALLWORLD, Jan Luescher. “Whilst maintaining our identity and ethos, our work with The Luxury Collection will allow us to maximise our awareness in our continued efforts in pioneering sustainable luxury travel.”
Eleven private guest and family villas line the island; each villa has been created using local materials harvested during the island’s rehabilitation process, expertly balancing luxury and simplicity. An haute-couture Robinson Crusoe aesthetic has been applied through interiors celebrating the sheer indulgence of volume and space.
“We’re delighted to be expanding our footprint of captivating destinations with storied pasts and protected futures.” – Global Brand Leader at The Luxury Collection, Anthony Ingham.
“North Island is one of the most rare and luxurious destinations in the world, making it a natural fit for The Luxury Collection and our global explorers who seek authentic experiences and connections to both pristine nature and elevated personalisation,” added Global Brand Leader at The Luxury Collection, Anthony Ingham. “This is the first private island within The Luxury Collection portfolio, and we’re delighted to be expanding our footprint of captivating destinations with storied pasts and protected futures.”
The island not only offers a calming refuge from the modern world, but also an invigorating, refreshing getaway connected to the island’s natural beauty. Aquatic explorers can take part in snorkeling, diving, fishing, sunset cruises, kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing. Bespoke guided excursions for those looking to explore the granite peaks or coral reefs are also available. Whilst on land, forest trails can be explored by foot, bicycle or private buggy, or guests can simply relax on one of the island’s four pristine beaches located at each end of the compass. The island is also the ultimate playground for families and children, with a Beach Buddy program tailormade to interests and hobbies. Parents are invited to take part, or can find their own relaxation whilst children remain supervised.
The North Island Spa is dwarfed by giant granite peaks, enjoys an open sea breeze and overlooks turquoise waters. Guests are invited to the spa on arrival where they are immediately immersed in ‘island life’ with each tailor-made treatment starting with a ‘barefoot ritual’. A private consultation to create a bespoke spa experience is then formulated as part of a holistic journey of visual and textural contrasts, arousing the senses and rejuvenating mind, body and soul.
Main image credit: Marriott International/The Luxury Collection
100% not-for-profit luxury safari, Lepogo Lodges, opens in South Africa
The safari Lepogo Lodges, joins the ‘Not-for-Profit Conservation Tourism’ Movement and pledges to offset each and every guest’s carbon footprint…
Lepogo Lodges, one of Africa’s few entirely not-for-profit high-end safari lodges, has opened its very first lodge in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, Noka Camp, which is set within the 50,000-hectare, malaria-free Lapalala Wilderness Reserve.
Lepogo Lodges is the very first luxury camp in Africa to offset the carbon footprint of every visiting guest, from the time they leave their home to the moment they return. Family-owned and operated, the project has been developed as part of a life-long dream to create a sustainable conservation legacy in Africa, with 100 per cent of any financial gains made re-invested back into the reserve for the benefit of wildlife, conservation and the local community.
Image credit: Lepogo Lodges
Noka Camp consists of five stilted villas, including one villa especially designed for families. The villas are joined by a main lodge comprised of dining room, bar, lounge area and sprawling outdoor terrace, all perched atop a 100ft cliff overlooking the winding Palala River below and the endless bush ahead. The camp is entirely off-grid, with all energy self-generated by a bespoke, 250msolar walkway.
Lepogo Lodges have worked with award-winning Japanese Architect Yuji Yamazakion Noka Camp and its five stilted villas, designed to offer the highest level of luxury while bearing the lightest footprint on the surrounding environment. A glass-fronted design for the main lodge and villas maximises the incredible panoramic views seen at every turn, while the entire property has been built on small concrete pads, which ensure that no scars are left on the land. Each villa is complete with heated plunge pool, unique ‘sky bed’ with glass floor over the ravine, sunken bathtub and underfloor heating.
Image credit: Lepogo Lodges
Image credit: Lepogo Lodges
Lepogo Lodges have collaborated with Sarah Ord Interiors on the interior design of Noka Camp. Reputed for her use of colour and eclectic designs, Sarah’s vision was to enhance and reflect the natural colours of the reserve. Noka’s light-filled interiors were inspired by the vast horizon of turning leaves on the terracotta-coloured cliffs, where the sky meets Africa. Walls disappear through the use of expansive glass panes, with each vista becoming a framed work of art on a grand scale. Sarah has made use of sustainable and South-African products, crafts and textiles wherever possible.
Lepogo Lodges will consist of two lodges, with a second property, Melote House, set to open in 2021. Ideal for multi-generational travel, Melote House will be an exclusive-use property sleeping up to 16 guests.
Entirely energy self-sufficient thanks to the property’s very own solar walkway, Lepogo Lodges will be the first luxury lodge in Africa to offset the carbon emissions from all guests’ travel, from the time they leave their home to the moment they return. Guests can also participate in conservation efforts, community outreach, school visits and more.
The owning family of Lepogo Lodges is committed to supporting community projects. For example, the Montebello Design Centre in Cape Town was founded by a close relative as a centre to support the disadvantaged, where students can learn valuable crafting skills and generate income to support their livelihoods. It flourishes today and has produced some remarkable talent, some of which Lepogo is proud to be able to showcase. Lepogo Lodges are also working closely with local communities, who have created bespoke soft accessories for the lodges, toys and clothing for the on-site curio shop and custom amenities including hydrating hair oil made from the fabled Baobab and Moringa trees.
The family is particularly passionate about the conservation of cheetah, pangolin and rhino, having been attracted to Lapalala as one of the leading private rhino sanctuaries in Africa. Lepogo Lodges have funded research and are working with Lapalala to establish the reserve as a centre of excellence for the release of wild captured cheetah in conjunction with The Endangered Wildlife Trust. A pangolin re-introduction programme will also begin in the coming months and the family look forward to supporting and working with the world renowned Lapalala Wilderness School.
The latest data published from TOPHOTELCONSTRUCTION shows Egypt is home to 55 new hotel projects which further adds 15,485 new rooms to the region…
The hospitality market in Africa has been booming for some time, new statistics from the TOPHOTELCONSTRUCTION database has provided an insight into the region’s future growth in development and overall tourism.
A recent report from TOPHOTELCONSTRUCTION finds that Egypt is the country with the most active project pipeline on the entire African continent, with currently 55 projects in the pipeline, which is nearly double that of the next closest country, Morocco with 36 hotels on the boards.
This likely means Africa’s hospitality boom is being powered in part by the rise in tourism in Egypt, where visitors come from across the globe each year to enjoy unique historical sites and landscapes, as luxury travel for most becomes more about experience rather than product.
Some of the significant hotels currently in the pipeline in Egypt include The St. Regis Cairo, Hilton Secon Nile Tower and Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh.
Egypt is far from the only country in Africa with many hotels currently in its project pipeline. Below Egypt in the hotel development race (in order) is Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria, South Africa, Cape Verde, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast.
On average, Africa’s top ten countries in terms of their hospitality market currently have in the region of 22 hotels in their pipelines, with Egypt standing out its 55 projects on the boards.
The most recent development data compliments The Egyptian tourism ministry’s strategy to target social media influencers to boost tourism in the area and promote it as a travel hotspot destination.
Main image credit: Marriott International/St Regis Cairo
InterContinental Hotels debuts first luxury hotel in renowned hot spring destination
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts continues to pioneer new luxury destinations with the opening of ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa, which is injected with local design and architecture references throughout…
The opening strengthens the long-term venture with ANA and IHG in Japan and joins more than 200 InterContinental Hotels & Resorts worldwide. Leading the way in luxury, the resort isone of four immersive resorts to open in 2019, with InterContinental Hayman Island Resort opened on 1 July and InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort and InterContinental Phuket Resort opening in September.
“On behalf of IHG and IHG/ANA Japan, we are extremely proud to open the first international luxury hot spring resort and spa in Beppu,” said Hans Heijligers, Head of Japan, IHG, and IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan. “InterContinental has been pioneers in luxury travel for more than 70 years, delivering the allure of the InterContinental Life in all corners of the world. We are delighted to continue bringing the brand’s iconic hospitality, combining international know-how and local wisdom to new destinations as IHG continues to grow its luxury presence across the globe and in Japan.”
Image credit: IHG
Renowned for its rich culture and distinguished local craftsmanship, Beppu lends itself to offering guests rare access into authentic Japanese experiences. As the world’s second largest volume of hot spring water, the onsen tradition is a synonymous part of the guest experience in Beppu. The resort offers two large outdoor onsens, each meticulously designed with the selection and arrangement of Beppu stones selected by skilled masons, and placed to create a waterfall effect as if the hot spring water is overflowing from the mountain.
The private onsen rooms offer a modern onsen experience within an exclusive space complete with a luxurious day bed, bathroom and minimalist design. The heart of the resort is the iconic infinity pool, designed to unite the sky with the view overlooking Beppu’s hot springs below.
“Featured across the resort is work from local artists and craftsmen.”
Elevating the cleansing and healing powers of myobanwater is the resort spa. In partnership with luxury Thai spa brand HARNN, the spa offers a selection of tailor-made treatments and therapies using materials derived from nature, along with rich aroma scent to rejuvenate the mind and body. The spa offers five treatment rooms with private en suites and outdoor garden, and two double massage rooms featuring a jacuzzi made from Japanese cypress.
Imagined by the in-house design team at IHG, the resort shelters a distinct design philosophy, steeped in tradition and inspired by the elements. Featured across the resort is work from local artists and craftsmen, using traditional materials from various parts of Kyushu and local Oita prefecture. Beginning in the resort’s lobby, the soaring space is reminiscent of an art gallery with its high-quality bamboo art work, ancient pottery and wooden furniture with bold designs.
Image credit: IHG
Elsewhere, the 89 guestrooms, including 10 suites, range from a luxurious 62-212 square meters, including large onsen or hot baths, spacious design and an abundance of natural materials for a sense of relaxation. All Suites and Club InterContinental rooms feature private open-air baths on the terrace with views sweeping the Beppu Bay.
Continuing the philosophy of harmonious nature and design, the resort features five restaurants and bars inspired by Japan’s five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and void.
The latest addition to the IHG portfolio proves further its continues its legacy of pioneering luxury travel in emerging destinations.
Set on 178 acres of lush land on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Singita Kwitonda Lodge is home to eight luxurious suites and resides alongside Kataza House – an exclusive use four-bedroom villa.
For the past 26 years, Singita has operated iconic ecotourism lodges and camps across three regions in Africa. The brand’s expansion into Rwanda supports the company’s 100-year purpose to preserve and protect large areas of African wilderness for future generations. To this end, Singita has committed to extensive reforestation initiatives in Rwanda, helping to increase the range and numbers of endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. The presence of Singita Kwitonda Lodge on the park border will help to create a natural space between agricultural plots and the habitat of the estimated 320 mountain gorillas that find sanctuary here. The property itself has been named after named after a legendary silverback gorilla known for his humility and gentle nature – Kwitonda.
Singita has been inspired by the warm and welcoming spirit of the people of Rwanda which embodies a sense of goodwill and encapsulates their remarkable recovery from a painful past – this energy has driven them forward in their country’s rebirth. For this reason, Singita feels enormously privileged to open just ten minutes from Singita Volcanoes National Park and will contribute significantly to conservation, community partnerships and ecotourism. The lodge’s on-site nursery, Akarabo has to date provided approximately 250,000 indigenous forest shrubs, bamboo shoots and trees for an extensive reforestation initiative.
The design of Singita Kwitonda Lodge was conceptualised by GAPP Architects in collaboration with the interior design teams Cécile & Boyd and Hesse Kleinloog (HK) Studio. The design takes its cue from Rwanda’s cultural heritage and the enormous responsibility of protecting the strong, yet vulnerable gorillas. Bold, striking interiors, which are simultaneously nurturing, reflect the duality of the gorillas’ nature; and this is also seen in the interplay of surprisingly strong art and furniture with pared-back modernity.
“It’s an absolute dream to expand our conservation footprint in Rwanda – a beautiful country with a remarkable conservation success story,” said Singita Founder and Executive Chairman, Luke Bailes. “Contributing to the Government’s enormous efforts to protect the country’s wildlife is both a privilege and a serious responsibility. We’re thrilled with the elegant, exceptionally sustainable lodges we’ve created here. They allow guests to connect deeply with nature in the heart of Africa, after a humbling encounter with the gorillas.
Image credit: Singita
Guest suites are made up of cosy living spaces, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and heated plunge pools, with breath-taking views of the Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. Travellers are encouraged to enjoy soothing massages on return from their adventurous excursions. Natural elements like earth, mist, rain and lava are cleverly integrated into furniture pieces and linear artwork. Meanwhile the vivid colour palette of lava black, khaki green, ‘greige’ and fiery orange echo the surrounding landscape which flows in through large windows throughout the lodge. It’s an inherently African sophistication that is long-lasting, polished and earthy.
The property itself is made up of a collection of small buildings laid which follow the natural contours of the ground. Each element of the design and construction of the lodge and villa follow Singita’s which informed every detail from site design and materials used to energy and water systems as well as overall interior design. The team worked closely with the local community to locally source most building materials from the immediate Musanze district – a majority of the elements that make up the property have been made in Africa and handpicked by the interior designers.
More than 500 local artisans and builders were involved in the project crafting volcanic walls, impressive woven ceilings and hand-fired terracotta brickwork, ensuring an authentic translation of local culture into key elements, adding a significant boost to local employment and businesses. The overall effect is strong and captivating, yet soothing, enhancing the serious, soul-centering experience of encountering gorilla families in their natural habitat.
The food and beverage offering at the lodge takes a farm-to-table-approach featuring largely vegetable-based dishes and local Rwandan favourites, the on-site herb and fruit garden supplies the lodge kitchens with an array of fresh ingredients. Other highlights of the food journey include tailor-made trekking lunchboxes, flexible mealtimes and a signature “bar-deli” which offers fresh fruit and small snacks, enabling guests to help themselves throughout the day.
How one boutique hotel is attracting modern travellers to Africa
Urbano Hotel is the modern design inspired boutique hotel located in the heart of Osu, Accra’s most vibrant neighbourhood designed by architect Hussein Fakhry…
With its landmark I LOVE ACCRA sign at the entrance, focus on design, attention to customer care, healthy food options and coveted location surrounded by international quality grocery stores, casinos, sports bars, African craft market, and thriving nightlife, Urbano is making waves on the African hotel design scene.
The hotel is part of the new hospitality trend in Ghana focused on affordable luxury and improved customer service that led the country to be named one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
“When we designed Urbano Hotel, we wanted to bring the concept of “New Africa” to life, an experience that fuses traditional African design and art with a cosmopolitan aesthetic and amenities that our guests are accustomed to when they travel to NY, London, or Paris or other top markets in the world. Urbano Hotel feels youthful and fresh yet a business traveller or family can still find comfort,” shares Fakhry, the Managing Director of Urbano’s parent company, Roots International and co-founder of Key Architectural Group who has more than 22 years experience on prestigious and diversified designs and construction projects throughout the Middle East and West Africa.
Image credit: Urbano Hotel
It was the love and conception of urban neighbourhoods which promoted Fakhry’s team to revive and refurbish what was formerly the Penta Hotel into Urbano, a modern aesthetic piece, both internally and externally to enhance the facets of Oxford Street. Urbano Hotel features 43 rooms ranging from standard to the luxury bi-level suite and mini-apartment, a multi-functional hall with a capacity for 60, The Arabian, an indoor open courtyard, state of the art gym, The Terrace Bar, and Zaytoun Artisan Cafe featuring Middle Eastern specialities.
“Our utmost vision was to make Urbano Hotel a compelling, “must visit” destination within Accra and we complemented this objective with the mounting of the colourful “I LOVE ACCRA” installation which stretches across one side of the building to welcome every visitor to this culturally charming and vibrant neighbourhood. The millennial traveller is constantly documenting their travel experience on social media and Urbano’s facade lends itself to capturing iconic images of a visit to Ghana,” adds Fakhry.
Fakhry is passionate about the growth and development of Ghana’s tourism and hospitality industry and the possibility of the country emerging as a center of sustainable design in Africa.
“This year there has been a noted spike in travellers to Ghana due in part to Ghana Tourism Authority’s Year of Return initiative and several international conferences, music festivals and celebrity-driven tours scheduled to take place in the country. We are thrilled that discerning millennial travellers from around the world are travelling to Accra for both business and pleasure and finding Urbano’s eclectic style in alignment with their own sense of design, function and adventure and Osu serving as starting point to better understand the culture, dynamics and people of Ghana!”
Autograph Collection Hotels debuts in Kenya welcoming Sankara Nairobi to its dynamic portfolio of Passionately Independent Hotels…
Autograph Collection Hotels, Marriott International’s distinctive collection of passionately independent hotels, today welcomed Sankara Nairobi to its diverse and distinguished portfolio around the world, marking the debut for the brand in Kenya.
Set in the heart of Westlands, Sankara Nairobi lies in the epicentre of the city’s commercial, retail, and entertainment quarter and boasts quintessential Kenyan charm and hospitality, contemporary interiors and carefully curated modern African art throughout the hotel.
“We are thrilled to welcome Sankara Nairobi, a distinctive hotel which evokes the spirit and heritage of this vibrant city, to our portfolio,” said Alex Kyriakidis President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International. “As the first Autograph Collection Hotel in Kenya, Sankara Nairobi is a significant addition to our rapidly growing portfolio in the region and a testament to our conversion friendly strategy. The hotel perfectly embodies the brand’s unique perspective on design, craft, hospitality and its Exactly Like Nothing Else philosophy. This rebranding is in lockstep with the growing demand from consumers and their desire for differentiated experiences wherever they travel.”
Just a short drive away from the city centre and the United Nations Headquarters, and within easy access from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Wilson Airport, the hotel is situated at the heart of the city’s vibrant social and business life. It comprises 168 thoughtfully designed rooms, a tempting choice of authentic and award-winning restaurants, destination bars, social and meeting spaces, and fitness facilities. The newly refurbished guest rooms including a brand-new Presidential Suite captures the hotel’s personality with signature elements showcasing a unique character and a defining sense of place.
“We are excited to join the brand’s global portfolio of iconic hotels around the world and deliver a thoughtfully curated and authentic experience,” said Krishna Unni, Group General Manager of Sankara Hotel Group. “Socially and culturally immersive, Sankara Nairobi creates a vibrant and warm character that is deeply ingrained in the art, culture and lifestyle of Nairobi. We are confident that Sankara Nairobi will soon emerge as a preferred choice for travellers to Nairobi welcoming both Marriott International’s loyal members as well as new guests”.
Autograph Collection Hotels advocates for the original, championing the individuality of each of its over 171 independent hotels located in the most desirable destinations across more than 30 countries and territories.
More than USD 500m raised for new hospitality fund dedicated to Sub-Saharan Africa
In a region that offers robust growth opportunities, the fund raised by Kasada Capital Management will target both greenfield and brownfield projects in Sub-Saharan Africa…
Sub-Saharan hospitality investment platform Kasada Capital Management has reached a first close on its maiden fund Kasada Hospitality Fund LP with equity commitments of more than USD 500 million.
This is in line with a first announcement disclosed in July 2018 by Katara Hospitality and Accor who are respectively contributing USD 350 million and USD 150 million.
“This is the best structure to address the needs of the region” – CEO, Olivier Granet
The hospitality market is currently one of the most promising and yet underserviced sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa where growing economies and emerging middle class are creating high-growth markets that are left largely untapped. “There is an incredible opportunity ahead to try out an innovative hospitality investment platform in the region,” said CEO Olivier Granet.”While in other parts of the world such initiatives are already thriving, they do not exist with critical size and integrated structure in Sub-Saharan Africa. The time is now for bold strategies to be implemented. Thanks to Accor and Katara’s support we benefit from a unique competitive advantage supported by a strong portfolio of brands enhancing our ability to raise debt efficiently from local banks and international financial institutions. This is the best structure to address the needs of the region, develop attractive products and reach critical mass quickly to take a leadership position. I believe that our team of professionals combining experts from project financing to hotel management all with a solid local knowledge is exceptionally well placed to succeed.”
The first platform of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, Kasada Capital Management intends to bridge the gap between the local hospitality market players and international investors. The team is co-led by Granet and David Damiba, CIO and Managing Partner who collectively have more than 50 year’ experience in the hospitality industry. They will put in place a unique team of professionals combining world class experience from the hospitality industry, private equity and financing sectors underpinned by track record in the African market.
Kasada believes its positive social impact is key to becoming the number one sustainable hospitality fund dedicated to Africa. Co-investments with local partners will support local job creation and further local business opportunities throughout the hospitality value chain, from investors to constructors and equipment suppliers.
Hilton expands its presence in Morocco with opening of Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa…
Set on a pristine beach, Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa has opened, marking the group’s third property in Morocco. With its upscale accommodations, beachfront location and extensive range of leisure facilities, the resort is an oasis for relaxation and rejuvenation. The 304-key Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa is located within a protected national park, offering direct access to five kilometers of idyllic white sandy beach.
Tangier, a cosmopolitan port-city on the Strait of Gibraltar is the embodiment of culture with its UNESCO sights and nearby attractions, such as The Kasbah. Famous for its year-round pleasant weather and beautiful beaches, the city is seeing increasing numbers of visitors every year.
“Morocco is a flourishing tourism destination which welcomed more than 12 million visitors last year,” said Rudi Jagersbacher, President, Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, Hilton. “We are delighted to be expanding our footprint in the country and hope this will continue to support the Moroccan government’s tourism ambition to make Morocco one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world by 2020.”
Spread across an impressive 850m², the hotel’s eforea spa is equipped with state of the art treatment rooms, a beauty salon, hairdresser, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and a 24/7 gym. For those looking to perfect their swing during their stay, the hotel offers two spectacular golf courses alongside a Golf Academy.
In addition, The hotel boasts 4,500m² of flexible event space with capacity for up to 1,400 guests. The hotel offers 15 flexible meeting rooms as well as two pillarless ballrooms. With an expansive foyer that leads to an outdoor terrace, the space is ideal for hosting coffee breaks, cocktail receptions and buffets.
Meanwhile, the culinary experience is said to be at the heart of the hotel with the hotel boasting a total of five restaurants and bars.
Boasting 304 exquisite guestrooms and suites, including 50 apartments, all guestrooms feature a blend of Moroccan and international design touches with private balconies overlooking either the Atlantic Ocean or 11 hectares of garden.
“We are excited to introduce Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa to our growing brand portfolio,” said Vera Manoukian, senior vice president and global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts. “The opening of this property highlights our commitment to expanding in key destinations across the world, in the world’s most sought-after destinations for guests who know that where they stay matters.”
With more than 585 hotels across six continents, Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties are located in the world’s most sought-after destinations for guests who know that where they stay matters. This particular opening marks a significant growth in North Africa.
Main image credit: HILTON TANGIER AL HOUARA RESORT & SPA
The 188-key Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, which is centrally located on the famous Meskel Square, features carefully designed areas throughout and is complete with a total of six dining outlets.
“We are excited to celebrate the opening of Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa and to introduce the brand to Ethiopia,” said Heddo Siebs, general manager, Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa. “We are confident that our loyal World of Hyatt members and global travelers will feel welcomed the moment they arrive and we look forward to serving them delicious blends of local flavors, while also offering an array of live entertainment.”
The 188 spacious guestrooms include 12 luxury Regency suites, two Executive suites, one Presidential suite and one Royal Presidential suite with four bedrooms. Regency Club room and suite guests can enjoy complimentary use of the boardroom and exclusive access to the Regency Club lounge.
Image credit: Hyatt Hotels
With six restaurants and bars to choose from, the hotel offers something for every taste. Guests can enjoy delicious Levantine signature meals in the hotel’s The Kitchen or a wide array of coffees and cocktails in Cascara Coffee & Cocktails, while taking in the stunning courtyard views. For business meetings, The Lobby Lounge allows guests to indulge in fresh fruit and delicious pastries from The Market. The hotel also features a Pool Bar and Lounge overlooking the inner courtyard. The Oriental serves western style barbeque and fine Asian cuisine in a casual yet contemporary setting. In addition, The Metro Bar, located in the basement, offers live music.
Guests wishing to relax and revitalise can visit the outdoor pool or enjoy a massage at the spa. The 2,530 square foot (235 square meter) fitness center will provide the perfect workout with state-of-the-art equipment.
The 18,300 square feet (1,700 square meters) of flexible meeting space overlooking the legendary Meskel Square leads to the open air inner courtyard of the hotel. The magnificent Regency Ballroom adjoining the courtyard offers the best setting for memorable occasions. Further, the hotel features multi-functional meeting spaces equipped with high-tech audiovisual and lighting equipment, making Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, according to the brand, the best place for any occasion.
Africa’s hotel pipeline
In June 2018, it was reported that the total number African hotels in the pipeline was 281 projects/45,555 rooms, which was up 21 per cent by projects YOY. In Africa, there are 127 projects/21,233 rooms under construction, up one per cent by projects YOY. Those scheduled to start construction in the next 12 months were at 79 projects/11,954 rooms, up a whopping 65 per cent, while projects that were in early planning stood at 75 projects/12,368 rooms are up 29 per cent.
Checking in to Matetsi Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe’s answer to luxury
Travelling 7,500 miles to Zimbabwe, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn learns more about the design direction of one of the country’s most luxurious hotel offerings, the award-winning Matetsi Victoria Falls…
Beyond the baobab trees – which are said to be sacred among the locals because of the natural healing powers they lock within their roots.
The dehydrated shrubs on the African soil, elephants, hyenas, zebras, warthogs, leapards and lions sits an award-winning luxury riverside hotel that is indubitably one of the most luxurious offerings in Zimbabwe.
After 15 minutes 4x4ing the dirt road into the heart of the 123,000-acre (55,000 hectres) reserve, we arrive at Matetsi Victoria Falls, a place that promises luxury, comfort and unmatched style. “I have the largest back yard in Africa,” jokes the owner John Gardiner who greets me on arrival. And with nothing between us and the natural safari, my experience in the African bush begins.
The entrance of the hotel is framed by three traditional Mokoro (dug-out) canoes, which hang from wooden beams and sway in harmony with the soft Zambezi breeze. With no need for a traditional lobby, guests are immediately welcomed into the indoor-outdoor public areas complete with a copper bar and durable outdoor sofas and chairs scattered in a home-from-home setting that has been designed around nature, and not the other way round. “We didn’t take out a single tree when designing these camps, because we wanted these areas to remain as close to nature as we could,” said interior designer Kerry van Leenhoff , a previous graduate from Cape Town University of Technology who was hand-selected by Gardiner and totally supported in all her decisions. Using the striking vista of the Zambezi River, which flows towards the tremendous Victoria Falls, dining tables are placed in such a way to make every meal one to remember. “The lobby areas have been designed in order to encourage guests to connect with people and nature,” adds van Leenhoff.
As we approach suite 17 – AKA, my home for the next four nights – I am reminded just how ‘in the sticks’ we are, catching a glimpse of an elephant and a giraffe just metres from each other as my key enters the lock. I open the heavy, black teak front door, which was recycled and polished from the previous lodge, and the room is immediately filled with light. Interestingly enough, though, this was not the case when the hotel first opened, as van Leenhoff explains: “When the hotel first opened and the guests gave us their feedback, we realised that we needed to revisit the lighting, especially in the public areas,” she says. “So we added some more outdoor feature lighting around the trees and columns in order to really pronounce what we felt were the important and dramatic areas of the hotel.” However, my immediate attention is not on the lighting. Instead, my imagination is taken over by the striking panoramic view of the Zambezi River, which I later find out is home to legend; the locals believe that a famous God is said to protect the flowing waters, and his name is Nyami Nyami. As legend goes, the spirit which is often depicted as half snake half fish, protects life in and around the river.
The River Lodge Suite is everything you would expect of a luxury lodge in the bush, and so much more. The skin of matepi latte creates an organic ceiling and roof – and this material does more than just give a nod to the location. This decision was made in order to keep the lodge blending into its location and celebrate Zimbabwean culture. “It was really important for us to work with skilled craftsmen and women from our culture,” explains van Leenhoff. “We have such a diverse culture with about 16 different tribes and languages. We mainly focused around the Tonga tribes as we were by the river.” The result is that from the far side of the river, you can’t actually see where the hotel starts and ends, which suggests even further that the whole property has been created with nature in mind.
Van Leenhoff decided to take Matetsi’s love for nature and the environment and inject it into the fabrics and the walls. The result is a naturally calming, peaceful abode, which empowers an everlasting feeling of total luxury and relaxation. Modern high-quality furniture and hand-scultpted trunks of trees used as tables create the perfect blend of modern, luxury and timeless décor.
All 18 suites have been thoughtfully curated and the hotel is a credit to the talent of van Leenhoff. The art, for example is by Helen Teede who spent much time on site at Matetsi in order to find the inspiration of a unique collection of 18 paintings entitled ‘Mapping Matetsi’. Having done extensive walks and drives in the area, Teede divided the cartographic map of Matetsi unit seven into 18 parts and drew it to scale on each canvas, adding her own impressions of the river, the landscape and the pathways walked in the area, both man and animal-made. These 18 paintings hang separately in each suite. However, put together and these pieces of art actually form the aerial map of the reserve.
With the privilege of space, the hotel shelters two camps: East Camp, West Camp and one large villa, River House, which sits in between the two camps. Interestingly, the whole team – chefs, butlers, housekeeping, back-of-house staff – alternate between both East and West camp every couple of weeks in order to maintain the property and keep service personable at all times.
Gardiner, who I first met in London just a few weeks before my trip, is the real visionary behind the property surrounding the reserve. A local Zimbabwean hotelier, Gardiner has transformed the reserve since acquiring it in 2014 and aims to “give back to Zimbabwe”. With the help of his team, who all share Gardiner’s love for nature, he has restored and conserved the natural wildlife within the reserve by building various watering holes, 15 in total with a further 10 in the pipeline, I am told.
Before I check out, I have an opportunity to exclusively discuss the future of Matetsi with the team and how it plans to expand its luxury arm. “We are working on a few things at the moment, which are really exciting projects,” adds van Leenhoff. “The design direction and our aim is to strike the balance between feeling isolated and feeling safe.” The new plans will further challenge conventional luxury lodges in Africa with a real focus on opening up the guests to undisturbed nature.
The future sounds exciting and it’s clear that the design team and the hotel are totally in sync with ideas, vision and what luxury in Africa should look like. I leave Matetsi and Zimbabwe having cemented my respect in African design and culture. I am grateful that the reserve’s calming atmosphere allowed me to relax and escape from the lively London scene, if not only for a few days.
The newly reopened hotel in Namibia takes specific design inspiration from the surrounding, remote landscape…
After an environmentally-sensitive and inspiring rebuild, Wilderness Safaris’ Serra Cafema Camp, in Namibia’s extreme north-west, has reopened. Located in one of the most remote regions in southern Africa, on the banks of the Kunene River in the Hartmann’s Valley, Serra Cafema takes design hotels to new unexplored regions and offers life-changing journeys to this extraordinary desert location, ensuring the ongoing biodiversity protection of this pristine area and positively impacting the local community members of the Marienfluss Conservancy.
As part of a joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and the 300 000-hectare Marienfluss Conservancy – owned primarily by the Himba people who are amongst the last semi-nomadic peoples on the planet – Serra Cafema is strongly rooted in a core Purpose or reason for being.
“It’s not just about luxurious accommodation and superlative local hospitality – that’s a given; it’s about exploring and conserving the vast, wild space of the Kunene area, gaining insight into the ancient, yet evolving culture of the Himba people, and looking inward, where guests are given the chance to reconnect with the earth and themselves. These elements define the luxury of space and the value of unique experiences”, said Alexandra Margull, Wilderness Safaris Namibia Managing Director.
“It is also 100 per cent solar powered, in line with Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to operating with as light an eco-footprint as possible.”
Each incarnation of Serra Cafema has explored and enhanced its relationship with the spectacular natural world around it. The new Serra Cafema takes this to the next level, where the concept for the camp is done with reverence and respect for the Himba community. The camp is comfortable, updated and modern, incorporating fresh elements, while retaining the heart and soul of Serra Cafema. It is also 100 per cent solar powered, in line with Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to operating with as light an eco-footprint as possible.
Natural materials that reflect the surrounding landscape have been used throughout the camp, with stone sourced from the adjacent valley used for feature walls and prominent defining structures. Each of the eight luxuriously-spacious guest rooms overlook the Kunene River and mountains of Angola beyond, and include a sunken seating area, an extra-large bed with a canopy and netting, indoor and outdoor showers, and a large private deck for private dining, and from which guests can enjoy the surreal sight of a river in the midst of a desert.
The main central area also overlooks the river and has a lower-level oval seated area that is ideal for night-time star gazing. Further celebrating local culture, the conceptual organisation of the main area emulates the structure of a Himba village. The buildings are arranged to connect to each other via different outdoor spaces, ensuring pockets of privacy within a larger cohesive whole. This arrangement allowed for the existing ana trees to be preserved and utilised as necessary shade.
The details within the camp are also uniquely Namibian. The servers and tables for the dining area were built by young craftsmen and women at TABLED, a social enterprise that gives orphans a future by involving them in crafting design furniture. In keeping with the Himba tradition of wearing and using leather, Wilderness commissioned Myeisha, a Windhoek-based company that provides training and employment for previously-unskilled local labourers, to produce rich, ochre-coloured leather menu, wine and room folders. Another local company, Mbiri, has, in partnership with a group of Himba women, developed a range of products based on the tradition of sustainably harvesting the resin from the Omumbiri tree (Commiphora wildii) and using it as perfume. From their harvester-owned processing facility in north-western Namibia, Mbiri has developed its first bathroom range which will be launched and used exclusively at Serra Cafema.
“These are just a few examples of our commitment to growing local talent and changing lives by providing support and encouragement to local suppliers, local artists and local culture”, Margull added. On the camp’s completion, all unused building materials were donated to the Marienfluss Conservancy to build a shelter at the local school.
Just a short drive from the ancient Roman ruins of Carthage and the traditional village of Sidi Bou Said, a sanctuary of modern luxury and style has opened its doors on the Mediterranean shore of the capital: welcome to the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Tunis.
“We are delighted to greet our first guests at Four Seasons Hotel Tunis,” says General Manager Ahmed Khalaf. “Already there has been great interest among our Gammarth neighbours and inquiries from around the world, and now I join my team in their excitement to show off our new Hotel, and invite guests to explore the ancient wonders of Tunisia, and the wonderful seaside lifestyle of the city.”
Contemporary Arabesque architecture and design details including mashrabiya latticework screens reflect both the Hotel”s proximity to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its easy access to the city.
Spilling down toward the sea is a palatial complex of white buildings connected via arched walkways and surrounded by pools, fountains and gardens beneath swaying palms before giving way to a sandy beach edging the Mediterranean beneath a bright blue sky. Public areas are designed in an open concept to capture gentle sea breezes, while guest rooms and suites open to either garden or sea views.
The rebuild of Wilderness Safaris’ flagship camps in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Mombo and Little Mombo, continues apace, with both camps set to open for guests at the end of January 2018. Whilst comprising the most appropriate and sustainable luxury required of such a leading destination, the new camps will remain rooted in an authentic bush-camp offering to ensure that the original Mombo experience is retained.
Wilderness Safaris has been privileged to witness three generations of Mombo Camp, undoubtedly one of Africa’s foremost wildlife and ecotourism destinations. The brief to the architectural and design teams, Nick Plewman Architectsand Associates and Caline Williams-Wynn from Artichoke, was therefore to rebuild the camps in such a way as to maintain the Mombo traditions and history stretching back nearly 30 years, yet rebuilding to the highest and most innovative standards.
“In short, the new Mombo is a show stopper,” commented lead interior designer, Caline Williams-Wynn. “As the Rolls Royce of the Delta, we have combined traditional and vintage elements with a modern elegance that truly embraces the real essence of Mombo. We have used deconstructed furniture in classic styles, antique brass finishings, vintage leathers, copper lighting and copper-cladded fire places combined with marble and natural oak floors.”
A tonal colour palette has been used throughout to reiterate the longevity of the interior design. A mix of mismatched – yet complementary – wooden furniture all works together to feature a collection of pieces sourced over the years, resulting in a personalised feel. Other interior features include headboards and bed bases made of crackled leather with hand stitching on the seams, wooden and brass chandeliers and custom-made, hand-painted embroidered cushions.
“Space was also a key factor in creating the new design,” she added, “with each tented suite now comprising an expansive entrance, a sitting room with a bar unit, a separate bedroom and bathroom with a dressing area, indoor and outdoor showers and a bathtub that creates a sense of indulgence.” The view out in front of the floodplain is uninterrupted thanks to the use of wood sliding louvre shutters that can be open or shut completely as the guest would like and a sliding gauze second layer to allow for maximum air flow. Spacious decks are perfect for in-villa dining and private plunge pools and swing beds offer the perfect base for midday relaxation and siestas.
“Our emphasis in terms of luxury and service excellence has always been on sharing and honouring the amazing natural environment in which we operate,” said Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD, Kim Nixon. “Each tented suite has been built on exactly the same place as the previous one – with a slight increase in size out towards the floodplain to facilitate a pool deck. By remaining the same width, this has allowed all the vegetation – particularly the large trees that are in between the units – to remain, ensuring minimal impact to the environment. We even hosted a tree expert in camp to ensure that the trees were properly cared for and professionally pruned in a few areas that needed it and we did not cut a single root greater than 50 mm.”
“We have also taken the lessons we’ve learnt over the years and used innovative ideas to allow for natural temperature regulation; extended verandas are shaded with pergolas in front of the rooms, while the multi-layered, insulated roof design consists of a fabric layer that deals well with heat and UV rays and a cavity roof with insulation that allows air flow through and drops the temperature,” Nixon added. Walls and floors all have three layers each and of course, being raised off the ground aids in the flow of air, as well as allows for free animal movement beneath. There is also a good through flow from the front to the back of the suites, taking advantage of the gentle breeze off the floodplain.
World-renowned as “the Place of Plenty”, Mombo’s location on Chief’s Island within the Moremi Game Reserve attracts an enormous number and variety of animals, which makes it a hugely sought-after destination. Mombo is also deeply committed to the plight of the rhino and, since the turn of the century, has played the key primary role in rhino relocation through its Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project.
“We are proud of the progress we have made to date and look forward to sharing the magic of Mombo with our guests in 2018 – we have no doubt that Mombo will continue to exceed our guests’ expectations and remain a place of harmony: a balance between the camps, the environment and the people who stay here,” Nixon concluded.
The new Mombo and Little Mombo camps will open end January 2018. Please see additional notes below for further architectural and interior design details.
Wilderness Safaris is delighted to announce the opening of its new Classic Camp, Qorokwe, situated in the private, wildlife-rich 26 180-hectare (64 692-acre) Qorokwe Concession, bordering Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Meaning “the place where the buffalo broke through the bush into the water”, Qorokwe comprises nine elegant tented suites, one of which is a spacious family unit with its own splash pool, as well as a dining area, lounge, library, bar and infinity swimming pool, all situated along the banks of a beautiful lagoon. An example of authentic, responsible luxury, the camp was built using innovative techniques and operates on 100% solar power, thus keeping as light an eco-footprint as possible in one of the Delta’s untouched wilderness areas – one that has been unutilised for the past four years.
“In our continuous quest for operating camps – and making a difference – in the best wildlife areas in Africa, the exclusive Qorokwe Concession has earned a well-deserved place in our ranks”, commented Kim Nixon, Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD. “We are proud to have welcomed our first guests to Qorokwe, in partnership with Cobus Calitz and Jil Gérard-Calitz, and are looking forward to revealing this contemporary, land-based camp and highly-productive wilderness concession to the world”.
Architect, Joy Brasler on Qorokwe:
The concept for Qorokwe grew out of a response to the landscape – the site lies next to a lagoon and the tented suites are raised off the ground to see over the vegetation growing at the lagoon’s edge, as well as providing a sense of safety in the wilderness.
The suites and main camp area were laid out by the team in response to the trees and views available on site. There are a number of large canopy trees which inspired the idea of a fairly cannellated ceiling to the unit which mimics the bark of the trees and canopy overhead. The rest of the unit is predominantly clad in canvas to the rear, and mosquito netting on the view side, with interior blinds/shutters that act as both curtains and environmental control.
In our practice, we had been pursuing the idea of a mechano m/s steel unit which would limit the construction time on site and the variations that typically arise out of building in the bush. Materials were therefore chosen for rapid construction with a steel frame with infill panels of either mesh or canvas, timber decks and the detailed timber ceilings perforated with light.
The tented suites are spacious and include a large deck. Given that the temperatures are fairly benign and that the thrill of being out in this wild landscape is paramount, much of the main camp features are open and cascading towards the watercourse. The rear of the camp enhances the experience of traversing the various vegetation typologies as you move towards the water – open landscape, vegetated edge, and open view – the entrance sequence is treated as a series of “walls” in the landscape, ascent and view. The ceiling travels over these diverse features and is gently graduated with light.
Views are framed and isolated to elevate the visual experience of this photographic environment, water is used to bring the Delta into the camp, both to connect the experience of being in the landscape and to deal with the practical issues of keeping guests away from the edges.
References are made to the cycle of decay at the edge of the Okavango Delta through the use of “rusted” finishes in conjunction with lightweight tented construction infill methodology. Colours and imagery from both the landscape above ground and beneath the water are brought into the interiors.
The language of the infrastructure is seen as an elemental and contemporary response to an insertion in this landscape – the interiors are a response to the colours and activities of Africa, with the emotive use of materials, colour and form.
Owing to its location on the border of Moremi Game Reserve and its diverse habitat types – from scattered acacia and mopane woodlands, open seasonal and permanent floodplains fringed on either side by the picturesque channels and islands along the Gomoti and Santantadibe Channels – Qorokwe offers an abundance of wildlife. Game drives, walks, boating and mokoro present life-changing opportunities of viewing and photographing the variety of life here, including lion, spotted hyaena, leopard, wild dog, cheetah, elephant and buffalo, to name a few, as well as the myriad birds that are attracted to such pristine surrounds.
Interior designer, Michelle Throssell on Qorokwe:
Sharing a similar design philosophy to Joy Brasler Architects, Michelle Throssell was thrilled to be introduced to the Qorokwe team by Joy Brasler in order to propose an interior design solution for the camp. According to Michelle, “Working off Joy’s canvas is always a pleasure and so our interior design concept grew very much from her inspiration. The selection of interior architecture finishes, various timbers, ceiling details, lighting, shopfitting and fixtures was a collaborative effort and we tried to involve the Qorokwe team in every decision to give them something that reflected their vision for the camp and also their passion for the bush. The palette of colours and materials was inspired by the Botswana landscape as well as by Joy’s strong architectural concept, resulting in a rich mix of bleached timbers, darker stains and accents of rust and burnt orange. By introducing a combination of organic shapes and textural diversity from live-edged timber to steel and canvas, we have created a warm, enveloping space providing comfort and luxury in an understated way”.
According to lead architect, Joy Brasler, and interior designer, Michelle Throssell, the design inspiration for Qorokwe came from the natural setting of the Botswana landscape, resulting in a rich mix of bleached timbers, darker stains and accents of rust and burnt orange.
The materials chosen to build the camp include steel frames with infill panels to insulate against heat and cold, canvas and timber decks. Detailed timber ceilings are perforated with light to mimic the experience of being beneath the trees at the side of the lagoon, so that the entire camp experience blends in with its beautiful natural surroundings.
Hilton has announced the opening of Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort, marking its debut in the country and further growing the brand’s portfolio of world class resorts.
Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is set against the backdrop of Sal’s famous Santa Maria beach. The hotel boasts a stunning natural stone pool set within a lush tropical garden. Guests can enjoy a 24-hour fitness centre, a kids club with a children’s pool and a nautical centre for diving and sailing. The hotel also features a casino, a beauty salon and Hilton’s signature eforea Spa concept with a wet area and eight treatment rooms.
Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is also the only hotel in the area to offer 24-hour room service and a minibar.
With over 1,000 square meters of flexible meeting and events space, including a 300 square-meter ballroom with high ceilings, Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is ideal for business groups, small meetings and social events. The hotel also offers wedding packages which allow couples to celebrate their special day on the scenic beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
“Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is a world-class destination resort that caters to the increasing demand for next level hospitality in Cabo Verde,” said Alejandro Casamor, general manager. “With a beach club, flexible meeting space and a host of other facilities, Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is poised to become the preferred choice for travelers visiting the country.”
Each of the hotel’s 241 spacious guest rooms features a 50-inch LED television, Wi-Fi and a balcony or terrace. All rooms span at least 39 square meters, while suites offer at least 75 square meters of space. In addition, guests staying in Oceanfront Suites or in the Presidential Suite will be able to enjoy breathtaking ocean views.
AVANI Gaborone Resort & Casino is celebrating the completion of an extensive renovation, representing an investment of $7.5 million (£5.6 million) by Minor Hotels, the parent company.
All 156 guest rooms and public spaces including the main entrance and porte cochere have been renovated with the aim of introducing AVANI’s signature design hallmarks. The new contemporary design and technological enhancements make for a modern, functional and relaxing experience.
The open plan, design for living lobby blends reception, lounge, eateries and chill out spaces. The interior is spacious and natural light has been used to great effect, allowing for a communal space where guests can relax, meet and eat. The Pantry offers fresh, quick bites for life on the move, comfort food, fresh fruit juices, barista coffees and more.
The Conservatory, located in the centre of the lobby, provides an informal, communal eatery. Design elements include a leafy graphic design wall, ceiling punkah fans, wicker seating and parquet flooring. The menu features sandwiches, hamburgers, salads and pasta dishes and delivers on AVANI’s promise of honest food, using freshly sourced local ingredients as well as naturally raised poultry and sustainable meat and seafood.
The layout of the guest bedrooms and bathrooms has been redesigned to ensure the best use of space. The design is functional, modern and comfortable.
AVANI Hotels & Resorts will debut in North Africa with two new properties in Tunisia, in partnership with Groupe Chaabane. Scheduled to open in the coming months, AVANI Les Berges Du Lac Tunis Suites will be located in Les Berges du Lac II, a prime commercial, residential and diplomatic area in the Tunisian Capital.
The 41-key property will offer exclusive serviced apartment accommodation options ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments and lofts, catering to corporate and extended-stay demand. There will also be an all-day dining restaurant and a health club with a gym, two spa treatment rooms, sauna and steam rooms, and an indoor swimming pool.
In addition and currently in its design phase, AVANI Gammarth Tunis Resort & Spa is expected to open in 2021 and will offer 250 keys in a prime beachfront location. The new upscale hotel will offer 232 rooms and 18 private beach villas, five food & beverage outlets including a destination beach club, meeting space including a 1,000-square-metre ballroom, a health club and AVANI Spa, in addition to two swimming pools and a kid’s club.
Launched by Minor Hotels in 2011, AVANI Hotels & Resorts is an upscale, contemporary brand appealing to millennial minded travellers who appreciate quality and value. AVANI currently has 18 properties in operation in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Seychelles, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and the UAE, with the brand most recently launching in Europe in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.
Qorokwe Camp, a new Wilderness Safaris Classic Camp due to open in the private, wildlife-rich 26,180-hectare (64,692-acre) Qorokwe Concession in Botswana in December 2017, will offer the perfect blend of luxury eco-chic within a beautiful Okavango Delta setting.
Designed by lead architect, Joy Brasler and interior designer, Michelle Throssell, Qorokwe Camp is situated along the banks of a beautiful kidney-shaped lagoon. The nine elegant tented suites, one of which is a spacious family suite with its own splash pool, and the main area, which comprises a dining area, lounge, library, bar and infinity swimming pool, are built on raised decked platforms (about two metres/six feet off the ground). This not only provides spectacular views of the lagoon and surrounding bushveld, but also enables the vegetation to thrive underneath the suites – a unique environmental advantage as most rooms create ‘dead’ space beneath.
According to Joy Brasler, materials chosen to build the camp include steel frames with infill panels to insulate against heat and cold, canvas and timber decks. Detailed timber ceilings are perforated with light to mimic the experience of being beneath the trees at the side of the lagoon so that the entire camp experience blends in with its beautiful natural surroundings. “The language of the infrastructure is seen as an elemental and contemporary response to an insertion in this landscape – the interiors are a response to the colours and activities of Africa, with the emotive use of materials, colour and form,” she said.
Michelle Throssel reiterated that their combined inspiration came from the natural setting, stating that the palette of colours and materials was motivated by the Botswana landscape, resulting in a rich mix of bleached timbers, darker stains and accents of rust and burnt orange. “By introducing a combination of organic shapes and textural diversity from live-edged timber to steel and canvas, we have created a warm, enveloping space providing comfort and luxury in an understated way,” Michelle added.
In line with Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to operating with as light an eco-footprint as possible, Qorokwe will be 100% solar-powered and all water will be heated by means of thermodynamic solar geysers, further helping to mitigate the camp’s carbon emissions. “We are also excited to have used a new building technique for the Delta, one that comprises an entirely steel sub-structure,“ said Qorokwe GM, Daniel Crous. “Although this is more expensive than building with wood, we believe that it is a more environmentally and economically sound method in the long run – requiring less ‘reconstructions’, as well as being easier to remove, thus leaving less of an environmental footprint. In addition, using steel removes the threat of termites and therefore there is no need to put chemically treated wood into the ground where it may affect the immediate environment.”
Owned by the Maun-based Calitz family, the Qorokwe (meaning “the place where the buffalo broke through the bush into the water”) Concession is a spectacular and highly productive mix of fertile Okavango habitats. Qorokwe’s diverse landscape includes scattered acacia and mopane woodlands, open seasonal and permanent floodplains and is fringed on either side by the picturesque channels and islands along the Gomoti and Santantadibe Channels. Guests can explore the exclusive concession on day and night game drives and nature walks led by highly-skilled guides, as well as enjoy mokoro and boating activities, depending on the water levels.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Calitz family to reveal this exclusive new land-based camp and private concession – a highly-productive game-viewing area that has been unutilised for the past four years. The beauty of the landscape and our experiences in the Qorokwe Concession to date are such that we know our guests can look forward to exceptional wildlife experiences, in addition to a world-class and original camp offering,” said Kim Nixon, Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD.
Located in Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo, the 25-storey Sheraton hotel is being transformed with all guest rooms and public spaces undergoing major refurbishment, with interiors by Areen Design’s award-winning hospitality team.
The 224-bed hotel is the latest project where Areen Design has been commissioned to offer a full design and procurement package, providing interior design services alongside a multi-million pound contract supplying the furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) and operating supplies & equipment (OS&E).
As Andrew Linwood, Head of Hospitality Design, explains: “Clients benefit from a deeply engrained design ‘know-how’ combined with procurement services based on quality and product durability. Design specifications are written with localisation, budget and suitability in mind, thanks to close collaboration between our departments. All this translates into better quality specifications, early and accurate budgeting, transparency, greater efficiencies, and ultimately cost savings while delivering a high quality service.”
Andrew continues: “Alongside these benefits, our design team were also inspired by the project’s location. I believe our interior spaces now incorporate a strong flavour of the locality and the Malagasy heritage; from striking patterns and colours, to structures and metalwork. The standards international travellers expect from Sheraton have still been provided but with more than a firm nod towards local influence.”
With completion and handover expected to be in Q1 of 2018, the new interiors will welcome guests to spaces which reflect Marriott’s quality and international standards, alongside the values held by the Sheraton brand in the hospitality sector.
From January 2018, Beachcomber Hotels & Resorts, the luxury hotel group with eight properties in Mauritius, is set to open a new accommodation concept, Victoria for Two, at the award-winning Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa.
Designed exclusively for couples, this new adults-only wing will consist of 40 two-person terraced rooms, each opening onto a private beach and the marine park. Couples can choose between one of two luxurious room categories: 17 Swim-Up Rooms, each with direct access to an 800m2 swimming pool, the first room category of this kind available in Mauritius; or 23 Ocean-View Rooms, each with a magnificent vista over the lagoon.
The new Victoria for Two concept has been designed to meet the needs of a different clientele: guests travelling child-free, wanting accommodation that affords space, peace and quiet, and above all comfort, whilst still offering access to all facilities of the hotel itself.
All 40 rooms in the new adults-only wing will be 50m2 in size, sea-facing and with access onto a superb section of beach. Each air-conditioned room will include a Queen-size bed, private bathroom with bathtub, shower and separate toilets, hair-dryer, security box, telephone, satellite TV, complimentary Wi-Fi access, mini-bar and complimentary tea and coffee.
Wilderness Safaris is proud to announce the opening of Bisate Lodge, situated next to the renowned Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Comprising just six spacious forest villas, Bisate offers a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla conservation experience and life-changing journey to this beautiful region.
Situated within the amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, the 42-hectare Bisate site is incomparable in terms of its natural splendour, with sweeping views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes. It is close enough to Kinigi (the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters) to be convenient for guests’ morning gorilla treks, but far enough away so as to feel remote and even – as a result of the pioneering onsite indigenous reforestation project – part of the spectacular Park.
“With only six luxurious forest villas, the real generosity of Bisate in the Rwandan context is the amount of private and exclusive space that surrounds the Lodge, sheltering it in a rare natural landscape brimming with Albertine Rift biodiversity and beauty”, said Wilderness Safaris COO, Grant Woodrow. Each spacious forest villa comprises a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception area and bathroom, all warmed by a central fireplace and with breathtaking views out across a private deck towards Mount Bisoke.
Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition as exemplified in the design of the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch. This spherical, thatched structure echoes the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture. Various interior design elements are drawn from aspects of the Rwandan lifestyle, particularly the colourful textiles and use of texture, such as the emerald-green colour in the textiles and chandeliers that is reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests, as well as the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country. Many of the furnishings are decorated using “imigongo”, an art form unique to Rwanda.
As a Wilderness Safaris Premier camp, the overall design concept for Bisate is based on the principle that ‘purpose is the new luxury’, with the vision being to create a world-class venture that will make a dramatic and far-reaching positive impact on more than ‘just’ the mountain gorilla. The whole Bisate experience is based around Wilderness Safaris 4Cs sustainability ethos of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation. Its pioneering reforestation project, which has already seen nearly 15 000 indigenous trees planted to date, community engagement, cultural appropriateness and exposure, eco-friendly operational systems and more will take guests beyond the ‘gorilla express’ and enrich their experience in this inspiring country.
“Since 2009 we have contemplated how our ecotourism model could contribute to the conservation of the Virunga Massif ecosystem and an iconic endangered species like the mountain gorilla. When we made the decision to invest in Rwanda, the last thing we intended to do was just to build a boutique lodge and sell gorilla treks”, Woodrow added. “We wanted to ensure that our brand of responsible ecotourism made a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation. As such, we hope that Bisate will exceed our guests’ expectations, and that together we will be able to make a dramatic and far-reaching impact on not just a Critically Endangered species like the mountain gorilla, but also the entire ecosystem of the Virunga Massif and the rural people living adjacent to it”.
Areen Design’s award-winning hospitality division has been working on two new hotels in Nairobi, both under Marriott’s Four Points by Sheraton brand.
At Nairobi’s international airport, the new 172 room hotel is scheduled to open later in the year and is expected to set a benchmark of contemporary design, with all the quality and functionality expected by international travellers and residents alike.
Areen Design is responsible for the concept design of all the public areas, including a reception with a double height feature wall, the Lobby Café with a display that changes from day to night and the rooftop pool with views out towards Nairobi National Park.
The second project, located within the bustling hub of Hurlingham in Nairobi has just opened, and represented a different challenge. Formerly a Best Western Premier, this hotel was converted to a Four Points by Sheraton property requiring an interior design approach which preserved successful elements, but brought the design in-line with Marriott’s expectations, ensuring it now operates as a leading business hotel. Guests are already enjoying the same high level of finishes as planned for the airport hotel including a full redesign of the reception, with a new Lobby Café.
Vivek Mathur, General Manager, Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Hurlingham comments:. “Areen Design’s concepts have dramatically improved the hotel space with a dynamic new addition to our Food and Beverage offering. The new lobby feels so much more spacious with sit down check-in facility for our SPG guests. An upgrade of the all-day dining restaurant Pablo’s is also currently underway.” He continues: “Whilst the delivery programme was undoubtedly demanding, by working closely with the Areen Design team, our deadlines were all met. This close working relationship is essential and has also led to the team now working with us on our airport project. That says it all.”
Andrew Linwood, Head of Hospitality Design, Areen Design, comments: “With innovation being a key part of the Four Points by Sheraton offer, we want guests in both hotel projects in Nairobi to appreciate the quality and creativity of our interiors, whilst also respecting the culture and heritage of the locality. This has become a familiar challenge for us and we look forward to many more.”
The Steigenberger Alcazar-Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, a new built five-star resort located in the Nabq Bay directly on the Red Sea coast, opened for business this week.
Each of the 610 luxurious rooms is at least 46 square metres in size, 99 of them are swim up rooms with direct access to the pool. Twelve Junior Suites and two villas equipped with private pools offer even more generously proportioned accommodation.
Expansive gardens provide plenty of green spaces as well as containing three public pools and two for kids. Guests will also enjoy exclusive use of a 3000 square metre private beach to soak up the sun and the sea. The diverse underwater world surrounding the Sinai Peninsula is an ideal place to go diving and snorkelling.
The hotel offers numerous additional sporting facilities, both water and land based, as well as housing a spa and a gym. Five à la carte restaurants offer Asian, Lebanese and Italian specialities as well as grill- and seafood and several bars cater to all the guests’ culinary needs: An Ultra all-inclusive package is also available. A modern conferencing area is able to stage meetings and events of every kind.
One particularly attractive feature of the resort is its close proximity to Sharm El Sheikh Airport, which can, for example, be accessed in only ten minutes via the hotel’s dedicated shuttle bus service. The Steigenberger Alcazar-Sharm el Sheikh Resort is already the eleventh hotel which Deutsche Hospitality has launched in Egypt, and CEO Puneet Chhatwal is delighted with this new addition to the company’s portfolio: “The Steigenberger Alcazar-Sharm El Sheikh is a beautifully appointed and highly modern resort in an extremely desirable holiday region. Sharm El Sheikh represents a considerable enrichment of our hotel portfolio and is a facility which is bound to fire the enthusiasm of our guests.”
Travellers can now live the luxury treetop dream with a little help from the Hotels.com. Loved by guests awards and the millions of genuine guest reviews they’re based on, ten amazing hotels have been crowned winners in the brand new Best for Treehouse category, and they’ll be climbing straight to the top of your wish list.
Today’s travellers are aiming high and dreaming of a vacation in the sky, as the travel experts at Hotels.com saw almost a 30% increase in demand for treehouse hotels last year. With treetop luxury (33%) proving more popular than sleeping in a spaceship (28%), checking into a hotel made of gold (24%) or bedding down in an ice hotel (23%), Hotels.com reveals the best-of-the-best Loved by Guests award winners…
Arkansas Adventure Eureka Springs Treehouses—Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Review Rating: 4.8 out of 5 on Hotels.comIf you’re looking for a secluded romantic getaway, this is the place to be. This resort is a hidden gem with quirky features and fun at every turn. The treehouses are held on cedar logs, surrounded by beautiful greenery and destination themed, so guests can stay in Venice, New York, Santa Fe and Paris. If treetop life isn’t for you then fear not, as Eureka Springs also offers stays in fairytale castles, with hidden passages and Jacuzzi towers, and guests can even check in to enchanting hobbit caves that are like magical cocoons. Rate Available upon request.
Beachside Bungalows Among the Trees Azulik – Adults Eco-Resort & Maya Spa – Tulum, Mexico
Bring out your inner child and swing above the turquoise sea of Tulum, all from the privacy of your own villa at this luxurious beach hideaway. Azulik is a celeb spotting hotspot, but its biggest draw is the stunning villas. These wooden-crafted abodes feature spectacular water views, outdoor mosaic bathtubs and a deck with a swing and hanging Balinese bed. Guests can enjoy fine dining and entertainment with a 12 course tasting menu at the Kin Toh restaurant that’s built 12 meters above the Mayan jungle, all while watching artistic performances.
Float Among the Clouds Keemala – Phuket, Thailand (main picture)
Fancy taking a dip on the edge of a cliff in your own 30-meter infinity pool? You can do just that at these gorgeous Bird’s Nest treehouses on stilts, located just 40 minutes from Phuket. Keemala is an enchanting evergreen wonderland, and these unique villas feature giant monsoon showers and freestanding bathtubs that have amazing views over the rainforest. Beach luxury, spa treatments, sunset cocktails and champagne picnics are also all on the menu at Keemala.
Style in the Sky Tree Hotel – Harads, Sweden
The Tree Hotel has upped the style stakes with its quirky, custom designed eco-treehouses. Imagine sleeping amongst the tall pine trees in a Mirror Cube, a Bird’s Nest or a UFO! Treehouses come complete with their own private giant hammock, so you can stargaze and seek out the Northern Lights. Guests can relax in the tree sauna, enjoy some authentic homemade Swedish food or zip line over Swedish Lapland and the Lule River for some exclusive and spectacular views.
Breath-Taking African views Tsala Treetop Lodge – Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
High in the treetops, this hotel hideaway is set in the wilds of South Africa, in the heart of the Garden Route. With breath-taking views and a mystical charm, the treetop suites are pure luxury. They come complete with their own private spa bathrooms, fireplaces and even infinity pools. The hotel also offers a unique dining experience from a special dining deck suspended above the forest floor, where you can enjoy a sumptuous breakfast or a lazy lunch.
Treetop Tranquillity Silky Oaks Lodge – Mossman, Australia
Imagine a rejuvenating spa experience in one of the world’s most ancient rainforests. Located along the Mossman River, Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef – there are rainforest walks, crystal waterholes and a billabong beach, all at your disposal at this hotel. The luxury treehouses have large verandas and hammocks, perfect for unwinding in the heart of the rainforest canopy. Guests can also enjoy dinner in their open-sided treehouse restaurant.
The Leading Hotels of the World is pleased to announce the addition of eight new members to its curated collection of over 375 luxury hotels. From the blue water and pristine white sand of Bali’s south-western coast, to the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps, each new member is as authentic and vibrant as the location in which it is found.
“For over 80 years The Leading Hotels of the World has been committed to providing unforgettable and authentic travel experiences,” said Deniz Omurgonulsen, Vice President, Membership, The Leading Hotels of the World. “We are pleased to welcome these eight distinguished new members that will offer our guests an array of unique travel experiences and enhance our portfolio’s global offerings.”
Sun Gardens Dubrovnik, Croatia
With its enviable seafront location and extraordinary Mediterranean gardens, Sun Gardens Dubrovnik, a modern beachfront luxury resort on the Dalmatian Coast, offers understated elegance and supreme comfort. Located in Orašac, seven miles from the UNESCO World Heritage City of Dubrovnik Old Town, Sun Gardens Dubrovnik features 177 hotel guestrooms, all of which boast amazing views from a private terrace or balcony, and 231 one, two or three-bedroom fully appointed suites and residences. Resort facilities include a private beach, three freshwater pools, a world-class spa, sports center, retail shopping area, conference facilities and a broad range of gastronomic offerings in 16 restaurants and bars.
An uncommon experience not to miss: Guests can make the most of the “al fresco” way of life by renting bicycles from the resort’s sports center and discovering Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or cruising the stunning Elaphite Archipelago. If guests prefer a guided bike tour, Sun Gardens Dubrovnik can arrange specialty sightseeing excursions with a private guide.
Le K2 Altitude, Courchevel, France
Situated in an intimate village at the base of the French Alps, the exclusive Le K2 Altitude is made up of a series of eight luxurious, interconnected chalets. Each of the 14 rooms and 18 suites is unique in its own right, appointed with handcrafted furnishings from Italy, Portugal and Spain. With direct access to the Pralong slope, guests can conquer Les Trois Vallées, the kingdom of skiing with 370 miles of marked runs. In addition, the hotels plays host to incredible gourmet and Mediterranean dining options, including a two-Michelin star restaurant, a renowned spa and a kid’s club for both children and teens.
An uncommon experience not to miss: With the hotel’s incredible location directly on Les Trois Vallées, the largest ski area in the world, guests can enjoy the best of the slopes with guidance from Le K2 Altitude’s experienced concierge team. Ready to make winter wonderland dreams a reality, they will help guests suit up in their on-site ski shop and arrange private ski lessons, heli-skiing, snowmobiling excursions and much more.
Hotel Camiral at PGA Catalunya Resort, Catalunya, Spain
Set in the beautiful Catalonian countryside, Hotel Camiral is less than an hour from Barcelona, and within easy reach of the beaches of the Costa Brava, and the historic town of Girona. The hotel is the ideal location for sports enthusiasts, culture lovers, foodies and their families. Panoramic views over two award-winning championship golf courses, make Hotel Camiral a golf lover’s dream vacation. For adventure seekers, Hotel Camiral can arrange everything from sky diving over Empordá to snorkeling in Costa Brava. Designed by the internationally renowned talents Lázaro Rosa-Violán, Hotel Camiral provides the perfect combination of contemporary architecture, striking urban-chic interiors, generous space, comfort and luxury. A range of dining options includes a mix of Mediterranean and international cuisine with a focus on Catalán specialties, created from locally sourced produce, and accompanied by regional wines.
An uncommon experience not to miss: Play golf like a Tour Pro on one of Europe’s most famous courses, PGA Catalunya Resort’s Stadium Course. Guests can learn how to best approach each hole with resident expert Enric, who will guide them through the course, providing the knowledge and tools to make it the perfect round.
Soori Bali, Kerambitan, Indonesia
Located on Bali’s south-western coast, Soori Bali sits within the picturesque Tabanan Regency, where volcanic mountains perch above lush rice fields and remarkable black sand beaches. Designed, owned and operated by renowned architect Soo K. Chan, the resort features 37 mountain, beach and ocean villas, each with its own private infinity pool and sweeping vistas. Also, included within the resort’s offerings are three dining options, all of which use fresh produce from nearby farms and spices from the resort’s own garden, as well as a full-service Soori Spa, infinity pool, bar, 24-hour gym and library.
An uncommon experience not to miss: Guests can take advantage of ‘Journeys by Soori,’ a series of customized experiences exclusively offered at the resort. Travelers can choose between half or full day bespoke experiences which focuses on spa and wellness, Balinese culture, arts and crafts or environmentally conscious excursions.
Thanda Island, Shungimbili Island, District of Mafia Island, Tanzania
Thanda Island, considered one of the most exclusive tropical getaways in the world, is located between the mainland of Tanzania and Mafia Island. Surrounded by its own coral reefs, which protect it from heavy storms, the Island features only one private villa with five suites and two rustic Tanzanian Bandas. With ample sunshine, the Island is powered by sustainable energy with no negative environmental footprint, and is a sanctuary to enjoy in complete seclusion with family and friends. On the Island, guests can rejuvenate and enjoy a variety of water sports or island activities as they explore this remarkable destination, where shades of turquoise infuse the days, and tropical spices the nights.
An uncommon experience not to miss: Located in Tanzania’s Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve, marine conservation is at the core of the Island’s offering. Through ongoing partnerships with the Tanzanian Marine Parks and the leading NGO, Sea Sense, guests are encouraged to get involved in a range of educational projects, such as marine wildlife monitoring or awareness workshops with villagers on neighboring Mafia Island.
Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Located on the banks of the Río de la Plata River, the Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences is a striking, futuristic building that is a focal point of the dynamic Puerto Madero neighborhood. The hotel features 159 luxurious rooms and suites decorated in a sleek, modern style, and state-of-the-art technology. With an eye towards design, a line of contemporary furniture was developed exclusively for the hotel and the rooms are appointed with arabescato marble walls and warm-toned French and Italian fabrics. The property’s eight dining venues are a culinary enthusiast’s playground, from Sunny Yard, perfect for a relaxing breakfast set in the hotel’s garden Courtyard, to Mike & Co., a kosher dairy bar where guests can enjoy childhood- inspired treats. The property also boasts two pools, a spectacular spa & fitness center, 8 meeting rooms and two ballrooms that can accommodate up to 1,200 attendees.
An uncommon experience not to miss: It’s all about dining with a view at the Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences. Start the evening with bold drinks and good music at the Crystal Bar, located on the 32nd floor of the hotel. Follow drinks with dinner at The Grand View restaurant on the 31st floor, an open-kitchen concept design with magnificent city skyline and river views from its sprawling windows.
UNICO 20°87°, Riviera Maya, Mexico
For an unmatched adults-only Mexico vacation, look no further than UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya. Set on the stunning white beaches of the Riviera Maya, it offers guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the region through dining, décor and activities. Five unique dining options range from elevated fine cuisine, to a casual café setting, each offering a menu inspired by ingredients sourced from nearby producers. An extensive, expertly curated selection of spirits can be found at each bar and restaurant, accented by a mixologist-driven cocktail program. Travelers can relax in modern Mexico luxury, in UNICO 20°87°’s 408 rooms and 39 suites, all designed with indigenous inspiration and handcrafted details. In addition, there are three pools; Esencia Wellness, a holistic spa offering signature treatments; a full-service beauty salon and barber shop, and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. Select spa treatments, golf and tours are included in the guest’s stay. Exciting pop-up events, such as mezcal tastings, art competitions and acoustic sunset jams, insert a touch of spontaneity into travelers’ experiences.
An uncommon experience not to miss: UNICO 20°87°’s rotating chef restaurant, Cueva Siete, is sure to surprise guests with exciting tastes throughout the year. Cueva Siete’s current partnership with celebrity chef Christian Bravo, a competitor on Top Chef Mexico, showcases a gourmet Mexican menu drawing inspiration from the region and local ingredients.
Soon to open:
Palácio Tangará, São Paulo, Brazil
Situated in the heart of São Paulo, adjacent to a lush tropical park, Palácio Tangará offers an unparalleled and exceptional location in the desirable Panamby Morumbi neighborhood, just minutes from some of the city’s most notable attractions. Palácio Tangará’s 141 spacious guestrooms, including 59 suites, offer beautiful views overlooking the rich flora and fauna of Burle Marx Park. Outstanding dining experiences, led by legendary chef-restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten, include signature Restaurant Tangará Jean-Georges, a chef’s table, and a bar. In addition, the hotel boasts state-of-the-art recreational facilities including the Spa by Sisley Paris, heated indoor and outdoor pools and a kids’ club. Palácio Tangará will begin welcoming guests in June.
An uncommon experience not to miss: Guests at Palácio Tangará can enjoy stunning views of the famous Burle Marx Park right from the comfort of the hotel. The Park is home to a wide variety of rare tropical birds, butterflies and flora, which can be admired from Palácio Tangará’s private terraces while enjoying fine dining or simply lounging by the pool. Following some R&R, guests can take a shady stroll through The Park, to experience the flavor of Brazil’s tropical forests – look out for opossums and white tufted marmosets.
Reopening after renovations:
Villa Del Parco & Spa, Forte Village Resort, Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia’s Villa Del Parco & Spa, Forte Village Resort will re-open for the 2017 season in late May, following a complete restructuring and renovation. The EUR 5 million investment includes the 25 Luxury Rooms of the main building, the external facades, public areas, reception and bar patio, plus a new all-weather covering for the Thalasso pools of the spa.
Leeu Collection has acquired its first London property, due to open in 2019.
The company now owns 55 Newman Street, Fitzrovia which is a former office building. Leeu will be transforming the offices into a 100-room luxury hotel.
Carrie Wicks, CEO of Leeu Collection, said: “The purchase of a London property is a very exciting development for [us], as it marks the first acquisition for the group in a major city, but it will certainly not be the last.
“Leeu Collection continues to seek hotel opportunities in key locations around the world that reflect the Leeu ethos of creating unrivalled escapes for discerning guests.”
Leeu Collection owns three five-star boutique accommodations in South Africa and the firm’s first addition outside of South Africa was the 30-room Linthwaite House in the Lake District. The second was Leeu Villa Querce in Florence, Italy, a 70-plus room luxury hotel and gardens due to open in 2021.
Global hotel management company, Swiss-Belhotel International (SBI), has announced its further expansion in Egypt with the signing of Swiss-Belresort Marseilia Beach 4 on the country’s north coast.
The agreement was formalised at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai in the presence Mohamed Yehia Rashed, Minister of Tourism for Egypt.
Swiss-Belresort Marseilia Beach 4 is the second property owned by Marseilia Egyptian Gulf Real Estate Investment that will be managed by Swiss-Belhotel International.
With a robust pipeline of more than 2,296 rooms in development across four hotels, Egypt has emerged as a key growth market for Swiss-Belhotel International.
Boasting 150 well-appointed rooms, Swiss-Belresort Marseilia Beach 4 enjoys an idyllic location in Sidi Abd El Rahman Bay which is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in Egypt. The hotel is being developed as an upscale 4-star resort to offer guests exceptional recreational facilities and varied dining options.
Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region with hotels across the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, will showcase its key upcoming properties at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017, the region’s premier travel and tourism event which takes place in Dubai from 24 – 27 April.
Rotana is preparing to open 17 new properties before the end of 2018, adding more than 4,500 keys to the company’s existing room count.
Key Rotana properties that will be on display at the high-profile exhibition includes Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas – a luxurious five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi set to open in the fourth quarter of 2017 on Saadiyat Beach. Featuring 354 upscale rooms and suites in addition to 13 private beach villas, the luxury resort will be the 15th Rotana property to open in the capital of the UAE.
Visitors to the Rotana stand at ATM 2017 will also receive a glimpse into the traditional charm of The Cove Rotana Resort, a spectacular property located on an idyllic water inlet on the Ras Al Khaimah beachfront. Currently undergoing large-scale refurbishment, the Extension is due to open its doors in Q2 2017.
Rotana recently made its long-awaited debut in Africa with the opening of the five-star Kin Plaza Arjaan by Rotana in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Africa is a key focus market for Rotana and the company currently has a number of projects under various stages of development across the continent including Marrakesh, Luanda, Nouakchott, Dar es Salaam and Lagos.
Rotana is also looking to strengthen its presence in Turkey by adding two more hotels in Istanbul. With the scheduled opening of the inter-connected properties under “Centro by Rotana” and “Arjaan hotel apartments by Rotana” brands in Q4 2017, the company will add a combined 305 rooms to its inventory while taking its total number of operating properties in Turkey to four hotels.
Even as it pushes into new markets and keeps extending its geographical reach, Rotana continues with its aggressive expansion plans in the GCC, with a total of four new hotels set to open in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this year alone – adding 888 keys to the company’s existing supply of 969 rooms in the Kingdom – and two hotels to open in Qatar by 2019.
In the coming two years, Rotana will open six properties in its home market of UAE, where the hospitality industry is projected to sustain its steady upward trajectory despite global challenges, with both Dubai and Abu Dhabi set to witness an increase in visitor numbers. Leisure travellers are expected to account for a 60% share of total visitor arrivals in Dubai in 2017, with business travellers making up the remaining 40%, while the comparative ratio for Abu Dhabi is projected at 60% business travellers vs. 40% leisure travellers. Rotana has been aggressively reaching out to new markets such as Poland and the Czech Republic to support the leisure segment in the UAE.
In total, Rotana will open 12 new hotels in 2017, and five more in 2018. Property opening in Q2 2017 includes Erbil Arjaan by Rotana, Kurdistan, Iraq (168 keys). Those launching in Q3 2017 include: Centro Waha, Riyadh, KSA (290 keys); Sundus Rotana, Muscat, Oman (215 keys); Pearl Rotana, Abu Dhabi, UAE (315 keys); Centro Salama, Jeddah, KSA (189 keys), and Al Bandar Rotana and Al Bandar Arjaan by Rotana, Dubai, UAE (280 keys). In Q4 2017, Rotana will be launching: Centro Istanbul and Arjaan Istanbul by Rotana, Istanbul, Turkey (305 keys); Centro Olaya, Riyadh, KSA (156 keys); Centro Corniche, Al Khobar, KSA (253 keys); Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Abu Dhabi, UAE (340 keys). This will be followed by five openings in 2018: Sulaymaniyah Rotana, Kurdistan, Iraq (240 keys); Rayhaan Imam Reza by Rotana, Mashhad, Iran (272 keys); Al Jaddaf Rotana in Dubai, UAE (338 keys), Sundus Arjaan by Rotana, Muscat, Oman (102 keys), and Beach Arjaan by Rotana, Abu Dhabi, UAE (326 keys).
Louvre Hotels Group, one of the largest hospitality groups in the world, continues to shape its wider growth strategy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Louvre Hotels is looking ahead to the opening of 10 new hotels in MENA by the end of 2017, which will add 1,600 keys to its current room inventory, exceeding the 11,000 milestone. In 2016 alone, Louvre launched 12 properties in key markets including UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia and Lebanon and expects to open no less than 10 hotels per year leading up to 2020 and beyond.
Louvre Hotels has a collection of six brands including Première Classe, Campanile, Kyriad, Tulip Inn, Golden Tulip and Royal Tulip. In 2017, the group is confirmed to open 10 new hotels ranging from upscale five star to midscale three stars such as :
– Royal Tulip The Act, Sharjah, UAE (180 rooms): Opened in January 2017
– Golden Tulip Ruwi Muscat, Oman (118 rooms): Opening Q2, 2017
– Tulip Inn Downtown Muscat, Oman (180 rooms): Opening Q2 2017
– Golden Tulip Sousse Palace Hotel & Spa Tunisia (250 rooms): Opening Q2, 2017
– Golden Tulip Regency Monastir Hotel & Spa Tunisia (200 rooms): Opening Q2, 20170
– Golden Tulip Palmeraie Tozeur Tunisia (100 rooms): Opening Q2, 2017
– Golden Tulip Doha, Qatar (198 rooms): Opening Q3, 2017
– Tulip Inn Algier Airport, Algeria (91 rooms): Opening Q3, 2017
– Tulip Inn Modon Jeddah, KSA (123 rooms): Opening Q4,2017
– Royal Tulip Korbous Resort Tunisia (167 rooms): Opening Q4, 2017
In keeping with the evolving needs of guests seeking affordable yet modern and fresh hospitality options, the group’s long-term expansion plans in the region will additionally see the opening of budget and midscale properties under its Campanile and Première Classe brands. Such focus on the budget friendly segment will add 40 hotels and 5,000 additional rooms to its existing portfolio by 2020 – reinforcing the group’s position as one of the largest hospitality players in the MENA region with a total room inventory of 20,000.
“Our commitment to actively expanding our footprint in the Middle East and North Africa region underscores the importance we believe the region holds in our future growth as one of the leading hospitality brands. Owing to its strategic geographic location as a trade corridor that connects the East and West, the region holds tremendous potential for increased business and leisure-related travel and tourism prospects from around the globe. Therefore, we see the region as one of our strongest growth markets that will continue to play a significant role in our expansion plans in the years to come,” said Amine E. Moukarzel, President, Louvre Hotels Group MENA.
“With the evolution of customer needs and their emphasis on value driven experiential travel, our mid market brands are a natural fit for todays traveler. We have placed experiences at the core of our global strategy and plans are already in place to introduce Campanile, our economy lifestyle brand in the region; with the first property under this modern fresh mid-market brand set to open in Kuwait by late 2019. In addition, we are looking ahead to bringing our mid-scale three to four-star brand, Kyriad, to the UAE and Oman with four properties planned across Dubai and Salalah,” Moukarzel added.
Earlier this year, Louvre Hotels Group also cemented its position in the Asian hospitality sector by becoming the leading hotel group in India with over 90 hotels under its stewardship following the group’s acquisition of a majority stake in Sarovar Hotels, the largest independent Indian hotel chain in terms of hotels and presence.
“Our continued expansion in MENA along with our strengths in Asia as the largest players in India and China enables us to build one of the strongest networks of hotels and brands across key business and leisure destinations around the world. Through our fast-expanding international footprint, we look forward to giving more choice to our growing community of loyal global consumers while further strengthening our focus on the Middle East as the central hub connecting our guests from the East and West.” he concluded.
Marriott International continues to strengthen its position across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, with projected growth across 38 countries and 150,000 rooms, operational and pipeline, by 2022. The new additions will bolster Marriott International’s existing collection of 247 hotels and 54,000 rooms in 30 countries across the region.
The completion of the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016 now positions Marriott International as the world’s leading hotel company. The company now offers the broadest portfolio of brands in the MEA region, combining Starwood’s leading lifestyle brands and international footprint with Marriott International’s strong presence in the luxury and select-service tiers, as well as the convention and resort segment. Each brand has been classified into luxury, premium or select categories, with the luxury brands forming a standalone group.
The recently created luxury brands group currently features six brands across the region, including JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, W Hotels, and The Luxury Collection. A remarkable 15 new luxury brand properties with 3,500 rooms are set to open across the region between now and the end of 2018.
Further adding and strengthening to this luxury lifestyle offering, Marriott’s scheduled 2017 openings include the 200-room Bulgari Resort and Residences Dubai, 257-room Edition Abu Dhabi, 280-room W Amman Hotel in Jordan, and The St. Regis Cairo, all set to open by the fourth quarter of this year. Globally, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and JW Marriott brands are classified as ‘classic luxury’, while the other five brands fall under ‘distinctive luxury’.
Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director of Marriott International, Middle East & Africa, said: “The guests we see visiting our hotels today are looking for authenticity and personalization within their experiences. The unmatched breadth and depth of Marriott International’s brand portfolio uniquely positions us to cater to the increased demand of the rapidly-expanding cadre of affluent travellers.”
“With luxury travel continuing to grow across the region, we see a steep growth curve at the high-end and have a world-class, dedicated luxury structure in place to nurture and strengthen this coveted portfolio of eight diverse luxury brands. Our aim is to ensure that our award-winning brands continue to flourish while safe-guarding the uniqueness and prestige of our luxury brands as we carefully grow them across the Middle East and Africa.”
Traveling well beyond tried and true locations, to destinations from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, and all points in between, travellers look to Marriott International for authentic experiences whether it’s business or luxury travel. The unmatched variety and regional nature of these hotels means Marriott International can offer truly differentiated offerings – from The Nile Ritz Carlton in Cairo to Marriott Hotel Al Forsan Abu Dhabi which openedin March, 2017.
Marriott has carefully defined each of its brands and their distinct offerings under luxury, premium and select to offer different experiences to guests. Premium brands including Marriott Hotels and Sheraton anchor the portfolio and provide a broad array of choices across the Middle East and Africa for business and leisure travel while evolving lifestyle brands such as Westin, Autograph Collection and Renaissance occupy the distinctive premium brand category.
New, fun, accessible experiences at Courtyard Hotels, Four Points, Protea, AC Hotels, and Aloft Hotels add to the select portfolio, ensuring Marriott International guests have whatever they want, wherever they are in the world.
“When we think about any of our brands, we start with the consumer and look at what they value,” added Kyriakidis. “With Marriott Hotels, this consumer is really looking for experiences that keep the mind balanced, sharp and inspired. And for Aloft Hotels, it’s really about urban-inspired spaces and vibrant social scenes for the next-generation traveller.”
Marriott International continues to strengthen its position across the Middle East and Africa region, with a remarkable 29 new properties set to open in 2017 with a total of 6815 rooms. The openings will see the hotel operator expand its Middle East footprint by 15 properties across the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, including the Bulgari, Renaissance, The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Hotels, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton brands.
The company has also announced further growth to its African pipeline with the opening of 14 new properties under the Courtyard by Marriott, JW by Marriott, Protea Hotels by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Four Points by Sheraton, and Element brands.
At present, Marriott International is building bridges among its three loyalty programmes; Marriott Rewards, SPG and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards combined now counts for 100 Million members. On the day the acquisition closed, members were immediately able to link their accounts to have their status matched and transfer an unlimited amount of points among the programs, resulting in all members now having more access to more diversity in more destinations.
After an extensive refurbishment and partial rebuild, Little Vumbura Camp has reopened in Wilderness Safaris’ private Vumbura Concession in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. With only six intimate tented suites, the camp offers a true Delta-island experience, complete with an array of both land and water-based safari activities.
“We are thrilled about Little Vumbura’s refreshed look and feel, with the tents now boasting spacious rooms that lead onto a lounge area, having increased in size by 30%. They also feature large windows that bring the feel of the outdoors within so that guests can enjoy the beauty of the bush whilst also relaxing in their suite. The family tent has also increased by 30% and the intimate nature of the camp remains the perfect choice for exclusive family safaris”, said Vumbura Concession Manager, Nick Leuenberger.
Other improvements to the camp include the extension of the bar area, which now includes a circular bar with a lot more space for guests to enjoy a range of cocktails or their favourite drink whilst watching the sunset. The new shaded pergola, situated between the dining and lounge area, is ideal for afternoon tea or midday relaxation and also provides another scenic venue choice for communal dining. The main dining area now features new decking and free-standing furniture. The new fire deck will be used for pre-dinner drinks, offering the most incredible 360-degree views of the concession.
“One of the things that makes Little Vumbura special is the unique arrival into camp by boat which can only be experienced in a true year-round water camp in the Okavango Delta”, added Leuenberger. “Little Vumbura really does tick all the boxes in terms of exceptional wildlife viewing in addition to tranquil water experiences. You can begin your day by floating serenely through the waterlilies on a silent mokoro and end it on an expertly-guided game drive, watching a herd of 1000 buffalo against a golden African sunset”.
The rebuild of Little Vumbura follows the extensive refurbishment of the main area of Vumbura South Camp in October last year. North Camp, South Camp and Little Vumbura all provide the perfect base from which to explore the diverse Vumbura Concession, renowned for its variety of activities on offer – on land, on water and by air! “It is a “hybrid” concession with the best of both worlds – permanent swamps, dry woodland and everything in between. It is the only Wilderness concession in Botswana that offers hot-air ballooning safaris – an absolute must-do bucket list experience”, Leuenberger concluded.
Relais & Châteaux is established around the globe, from the Napa Valley vineyards and French Provence to the beaches of the Indian Ocean.
Its ambition is to be much more than an association – to champion the principle of sharing the arts of gracious living and culinary expertise, and preserving local culture and diversity. It is this spirit – the celebration of both L‘Art de Vivre and joie de vivre – that lies at the centre of Relais & Châteaux that separates it from the rest.
From the United States, Colombia, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Spain, China, Japan and New Zealand, these are the latest establishments to carry Relais & Châteaux’s indistinguishable golden fleur de lys serve as the living embodiment of their locale and its history, environment and culture; respect the people who participate in the life and culture of their region; share a passion that endures from the head of the establishment through to the Maîtres de Maison and staff; and are committed to building on the legacy of hospitality and cuisine.
Zanzibar White Sand Luxury, Zanzibar (Tanzania)
Located on Zanzibar’s Eastern coast, Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is spread over four hectares of tropical gardens and 200 meters of beachfront on Paje beach. The property was designed in a spirit of sustainability. The architecture was designed to be unobtrusive to the flora and fauna; the hotel is powered by wind and solar energy thanks to solar panels and a wind turbine, recycles and grows organic fruits and vegetables onsite. The restaurant serves a cuisine which blends local Zanzibari inspired dishes with international accents and flavours. The spa is set in a tropical garden and offers a variety of treatments and massages. Numerous activities are available onsite, including snorkelling, fishing, cycling, tours and excursions. The property has its own water sports centre.
Located near Bryant Park, Gabriel Kreuther is the newly opened eponymous restaurant of Chef Gabriel Kreuther. The interior design blends tradition and modernity, featuring cream leather seating, timber columns and a glass-walled display kitchen. The menu reflects Kreuther’s culinary journey, from his childhood in Alsace to his experiences in first-class New York restaurants. Signature dishes include foie gras terrine with black truffle praline, cardamom-roasted Alaskan king crab, and a tableside-torched crème brulée frappée. Wine pairings are selected from the 42-page wine list.
The Ring is situated right in the centre of the historic Viennese Ringstraße Boulevard, 200 metres from the Opera. The 19th century façade as well as historic details, such as the listed elevator, stuccoed walls and old tiling are combined with a more contemporary interior design. The rooms likewise mix contemporary and classic furniture. The spa is located on the 7th floor and offers panoramic views over Vienna’s rooftop. The Eight Restaurant, serves aroma cuisine, featuring a variety of spices and sauces, fresh herbs and ingredients.
Zanzibar is a cluster of tropical islands nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania and has a diverse history that underwent Portuguese, Arabic and British control before its independence in 1963.
Today Zanzibar stands to undergo a new transformation, one of both social upliftment together with a mega luxury development and global marketing campaign set to position it firmly on the map as a world leading tropical tourism destination.
The development of Zanzibar Amber Resort, by Pennyroyal Gibraltar Limited will sustainably and economically transform Zanzibar and its community at large with maximum positive effects, whilst being culturally responsible, socially desirable, ecologically and environmentally friendly. Zanzibar Amber Resort is set to change the face of Tourism in East Africa. With the commissioning of this Luxury tropical resort by Pennyroyal Gibraltar Ltd. the premium hospitality offerings and world-class facilities will benchmark luxury in Africa.
Appointed across 1520ha of prime Indian Ocean coastline the resort will encompass an unsurpassed variety of hospitality and leisure facilities including, but not limited to: Five world-leading international hotels including the Anantara, Signature Ernie Els Design Golf Course – the first in East Africa (18 hole), Deep water marina, Aqua park for the whole families’ enjoyment, Underwater restaurant, Glamorous Souk, Equestrian centre and International polo club and Super Yacht facility.
These facilities include:
o 1914 Luxury Villas of 3,4 & 5 bedrooms; 14 designs with swimming pools
o 3440 Luxury & Penthouse Apartments of 1,2,3 & 4 bedrooms
o Shopping mall & commercial retail outlets
o International School – affiliated to premier educational establishment
o Sports centres: football, tennis, and horse riding
o Faith centres for diverse religions, including Mosques and Churches
o The first residential opportunity released to the market will be the luxury apartments, available for pre-sale in the second quarter of 2017.
o Private airport and medical facilities to be built.
As part of the Zanzibar Amber Resort, Pennyroyal Gibraltar has founded a CSR division, ‘Best of Zanzibar’, established for the social upliftment of the local communities. This community CSR initiative is geared towards continuously giving back to the locals of Zanzibar by tending to a variety of community needs such as education, nutrition, water sanitation and job creation. ‘Best of Zanzibar’ aims to assist in developing key skills of the locals for empowered and sustainable futures.
At this year’s International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin, Hilton has announced that it has passed the milestone of 100,000 rooms trading across its Europe, Middle East & Africa portfolio.
The news comes in a period of unprecedented global growth for the company. In EMEA specifically, this has seen net unit growth of more than 20,000 rooms in the past three years, a trend which is set to continue with close to 40,000 rooms currently under construction and expected to open by the end of 2020.
Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice president, development, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Hilton said: “Reaching 100,000 trading rooms is a significant milestone for us as a company, particularly given the quality and breadth of Hilton’s portfolio in the region. Our development journey in EMEA continues to set the pace for the industry – with over 60% of our pipeline rooms already under construction.”
– A burgeoning pipeline is set to double the number of Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn hotels over the next three years
– This year has also seen Hilton’s upscale DoubleTree by Hilton brand open its 100th property in the region, (DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid Prado)
– The city of Reykjavik, Iceland became home to the world’s first Canopy by Hilton in 2016
– Curio – a Collection by Hilton has already accumulated 16 trading and pipeline properties in EMEA.
Fitzgibbon added: “In the last decade we have introduced five new brands to the market which have allowed us to kick-start growth in a variety of segments, with our mid-market and economy brands now trading or under development in more than 200 locations. We have also successfully launched our collection brand, Curio, as well as continuing to build our core Hilton brand and luxury offering. Owners of our hotels were rewarded with the highest occupancy rates recorded in our history across the globe last year, 2017 is set to be another milestone year for Hilton in EMEA.”
Hilton’s EMEA growth in numbers:
– 5,477 new rooms opened in 2016 helped reach the 100,000 landmark
– 23,384 rooms added in the past three years alone
– 11,000+ rooms expected to open in 2017 and 40,000+ by the end of 2020
– 64,000+ total rooms in Hilton’s EMEA pipeline
– Approximately 50% of Hilton’s pipeline located in Middle East & Africa
Ghana will celebrate 60 years of Independence on 6th March 2017, marking the end of colonial rule and the beginning of independence. With this key anniversary, the spotlight is on Ghana and in particular the capital Accra, which has recently been experiencing a new cultural revival with ground breaking development in construction, cultural and tourism perspective.
Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra is at the heart of Ghana’s thriving cultural scene and is home to the contemporary Gallery 1957. The gallery which will be showcasing Ghanaian-Togolese multidisciplinary performer Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (also known as crazinisT artisT) and his ‘Rituals of Becoming’ exhibition over this historic anniversary.
Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (also known as crazinisT artisT) who will be producing a site-specific installation at Gallery 1957 which runs until March 12th 2017, created in collaboration with the Amsterdam based international curator Maria Rus Bojan. The exhibition will be using the body as a material and thought-provoking-tool to confront political and social issues. The work will be launched with a performance; extending the gallery’s mission to promote contemporary art in Ghana. Consisting of a theatrical installation that displays multichannel video projections, a readymade sculpture and a performance from the artist, the exhibition explores the assumed distinctions between gender identity, class, political injustice, violence and the objectification of humans.
Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra, is surrounded by an emerging cultural scene including Accra’s first wine/champagne bar and private members’ nightclubs in close proximity, and a contemporary art gallery housed within the hotel. Accra has also seen Nick House of London Mahiki fame open the hotly anticipated Carbon nightclub earlier this year, in addition to the construction of Accra’s first green building. Up and coming local Ghanaian designers also are hitting an international audience such as Christie Brown. There are several exciting openings coming later in 2017 including one of the largest spas in West Africa within the Kempinski and Accra’s first luxury mall The Galleria which will be situated next door to the hotel.
The Galleria Mall
The Galleria Mall, set to open later in 2017 will offer 6,000 sq.m of high-end retail and commercial office space with substantial underground parking. On offer will be a carefully selected tenant mix of both local favourites and premium international brands such as Hugo Boss, Versace and Roche Bobois opening flagship stores for the first time in Ghana.
The Galleria will also house a unique food hall that will combine a traditional market feel with the latest modern interventions. Retail food outlets, dining areas, coffee bars and an outside terrace all combine to create an exciting offering.
Inge Moore and her London-based design team have completed the refurbishment of 48 guestrooms and suites in one of the world’s most iconic hotels – Cape Town’s Belmond Mount Nelson. The design intent was to recreate the original spirt of the grand old hotel, which opened in 1899 and was said at the time to be as elegant as any fine London hotel, while updating it in such a way to engage today’s connoisseur travellers and lovers of exceptional hotels.
Inspired by Heritage
Capetonian heritage and influences were therefore the foundation to the designers’ thinking and this was a narrative that proved to open up layers of design opportunity. Once, seafarers from around the globe discovered the Cape and made it home, embracing what she had to offer and combining this with what they had brought from their previous lives. Local materials, rustic timbers, beads and clay brought together with sparkling crystal, silver cutlery and fine bone china created a new vernacular that uniquely belonged in the Cape. It was this mixing of the old and the new, the refined and the artisanal that Inge has translated into the refurbished guestrooms. Importantly, just as the “Nellie” has always been, the redesigned rooms are comfortably residential in feel. For the many loyal guests who return year-after-year, the ambience of their room will be reassuringly familiar while there will be much to discover that is new and enchanting.
“The Mount Nelson is one of a small handful of hotels that epitomise the inheritance and soul of their location, so they must be subtly moved on within the continuum of their beloved personality,” says Inge.
Connected with Nature
The gardens, lovingly tended and matured over the decades since the hotel first opened, as well as the breath-taking view of Table Mountain mean that Mount Nelson Hotel is the place to contemplate both the majesty of untamed nature and the beauty of man’s work with nature. The redesign celebrates both. Windows and casings have been restored and painted white, while the new drapery pelmets are smaller than before, effectively opening up the windows and framing the views. Guests can now better connect with what is outside and take the emotion with them as they relax inside. The bed is the centrepiece of each room, focused on the view and, at the foot of each bed, there is a local ‘riempies bank’ – the bench introduced to the Cape by the early settlers and locally made. Each room has a “chair to dream in”, a deeply comfortable armchair placed at a vantage point to soak up the panorama and allow the guest a place to slow down and feel what is important to them, be it to think, read or just to be.
Other heirloom furniture includes dark timber tables and cabinets with brass and leather detailing, while some furniture has been specially designed as a modern take on traditional pieces. There are idiosyncratic pieces, such as a beaded mirror, introduced to balance the collection and ensure the rooms retain an air of light hearted residential randomness. In re-planning the rooms, wardrobe space has become as generous as each room allows to meet the needs of the many guests who stay for a week or more.
All materials are classic, timeless and locally sourced. Originally, the hotel had timber flooring. Now, new oak flooring has been introduced into some suites, scattered with rugs crafted by local carpet weavers. Natural leather and linen abounds and antiqued and bevelled mirror reflects the sparkle of crystal and the sunshine dancing through the room. Drapery is soft and calming in tone, locally embroidered with a flower motif to bring a biophilic context – a love of life and things natural and hand-made – to the design. The guestrooms are light and airy on sunny days but they will also be cosy and cocooning when the sea mists and rain roll in. “They are rooms for slow living, a place to nest and connect with one’s emotions,” says Stan Chan, a senior member of the design team.
Telling the Story through Art
Artwork is a major part of the experience and the rooms have been lovingly accessorised with collections of objects and over-scaled paintings curated by Janine Bath in collaboration with Inge. All of the art is by local artists, some is contemporary and some depicts the beautiful landscapes of this part of the world in a new way.
“I think that art in hotels is either just decorative or it has real meaning – there is nothing in-between,” says Inge. “When we have the opportunity to develop art with local artists, it creates the meaning of the project and sets the tone. For Mount Nelson, I wanted to celebrate the amazing Cape and bring this into the hotel.”
The new artworks have joined many fine existing pieces which have been re-framed in a contemporary manner, complimenting the traditionally classic images of landscapes and flowers. Guestroom corridors have been transformed with new art offering a journey through the work of some of Cape Town’s most interesting established and budding artists, combined with the existing collection. The introduction of additional chandeliers and crystal wall lights provides new sparkle as well as more light, the tones of paint replicate heritage colours favoured in domestic settings in the late 19th century and a new sisal-inspired carpet hints at the hard-wearing floor coverings of the turn of the century.
“I want guests to feel like they are walking through the corridors of a beloved aunt’s amazing home,” concludes Inge.
Es Saadi Marrakech Resort is pleased to announce its inclusion in the latest edition of the US Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List.
The Palace features as one of only five mentioned hotels in Morocco. A leading voice in luxury travel the Gold List recognises Condé Nast Traveler’s best and most favourite hotels in the world, where uniqueness and authenticity are paramount and the hotels offer you an unforgettable experience.
Es Saadi Marrakech Resort boasts the most exceptional offerings in hospitality, accommodation and over all experience and is why the team at Condé Nast Traveler have chosen to include it as one of the best places to stay in this vibrant city. The Palace knows it is important for guests to feel welcome visit after visit, whilst offering an extraordinary stay. With these outstanding attributes, it’s an honour to see the resort on the Gold List, celebrating iconic hotels and old favourites.
The Bauchet-Bouhlal family are honoured to see the Resort featured in the Gold List. Acknowledging the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, the Resort Development Director Caroline Bauchet-Bouhlal commented: “We are delighted to be recognised by such a renowned and world-class publication. We take huge pride in offering our guests the ultimate and most unforgettable experience possible.”
Es Saadi, which means “The Happy One”, was created by Jean Bauchet and his wife in 1966, artists and owners of the Moulin Rouge and Casino de Paris. It has been in the Bauchet-Bouhlal family for three generations, run with passion and dedication.
Located in the heart of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Marrakech, in the quiet residential district of Hivernage and facing the snowy summits of the Atlas. Es Saadi is an oasis of splendour, mixing luxury, refinement and Moroccan tradition. Surrounded by eight hectares of majestic gardens, planted with orange trees, bougainvillea, roses, palm trees, banana trees and has a “lagoon” swimming pool of 2400 m2 with a circular bar immersed in water.
The Palace is a majestic building and offers 92 suites, 10 private villas around the gardens and 8 Ksars. All suites overlook the garden and have views of the Atlas Mountains. The furniture is built in accordance with this tradition. The 3,000 m2 Palace Spa, built around a 100-year-old eucalyptus, offers a unique wellness experience, offering traditional and technical care, signature massages, chronotherapy and also daily yoga for maximum relaxation and serenity.
On the third floor, the restaurant ‘La Cour des Lions’ is a perfect fusion of modernity and traditional, in an oriental palace, offering its guests a panoramic view of the park and menu, elaborated by the chef Fatéma Hal, honouring the forgotten traditional dishes.
Culture plays a large part of Es Saadi’s charm which the hotel hosting frequent events, such as exhibitions, auctions, theatre, etc. The hotel also exhibits Madame Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal’s stunning collection of Moroccan paintings and contemporary art for all to enjoy.
In 2017, the hotel will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Palace’s 10th. For this monumental occasion, to be recognised in the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List 2017 is an honour and a great reward.
Park Inn by Radisson, the colourful and dynamic mid-market brand, has announced the opening of its first property in Polokwane. The Park Inn by Radisson Polokwane is the ninth hotel in South Africa by The Rezidor Hotel Group, one of the fastest growing hotel companies in the world.
Located in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province, the hotel’s proximity to the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland, as well as a convenient distance from Kruger National Park, make it the ideal regional gateway to South Africa.
The hotel has 160 rooms with full-length windows to let in plenty of natural light and views to serene gardens. Park Inn by Radisson is only 9km from Polokwane International Airport and 3km from city centre of the Limpopo capital. Other facilities include a bespoke Smart Meetings & Events concept in three versatile event rooms that can seat up to 100 delegates. Park Inn by Radisson offers free high-speed WiFi access throughout the hotel.
The new hotel’s all-day dining Live-Inn Room Restaurant provides a lively, welcoming experience to relish multicultural cuisine, incorporating the brand’s international flair with a unique African twist. In addition, the hotel also features an open plan bar that leads to the terrace and outdoor pool.
Nisha MacDougall, General Manager of Park Inn by Radisson Polokwane, said, “My team and I are proud to bring Park Inn by Radisson – a brand that adds color to life – to Polokwane. We are looking forward to delivering a fresh, energetic and vibrant hospitality experience to our guests. We welcome the world to Polokwane to enjoy colorful moments and enjoy the best of South Africa.”
Deutsche Hospitality is continuing on its path of expansion. The focus is both on tapping into new markets and on strengthening its brand presence at existing locations.
In accordance with this strategy, the company has signed 14 contracts for new hotel on three continents over the past year. One particular milestone to mark the new year is the launching of the one hundredth hotel to operate under a Deutsche Hospitality brand.
The Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir is located at the very heart of the Egyptian metropolis of Cairo. Its central position on Tahrir Square, only 900 metres from the Egyptian Museum and within the immediate vicinity of the city’s main sightseeing attractions like the Khan El Khalili Bazaar, makes it the ideal starting point for any kind of activity tourists and business travellers wish to pursue. As leading international hospitality company in Egypt, Deutsche Hospitality extends its presence now to eleven hotels and three Nile river ships.
“The opening of our 100th hotel is a real highlight in a company history that stretches back almost 87 years,” said Puneet Chhatwal, CEO of Deutsche Hospitality. “It sets out a clear direction of travel in our drive for growth. Cairo adds an internationally relevant metropolis with millions of inhabitants to our portfolio. At the same time, we are filling in a blank spot on the map in terms of our presence in Egypt, the second largest location of our hotel company after our home market of Germany.”
The Steigenberger El Tahrir offers its guests 300 exquisitely furnished rooms and suites, all of which are equipped with the very latest technology. Five conference rooms and a large banqueting Hall offer plenty of space for events, and there is also a spa as well as a health and beauty centre and gym complete with swimming pool.
Mrs. Mervat Hataba is chairwoman of the Owning Company of Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir, HOTAC. She announced that the Hotel has been opened successfully: “We believe that this is a great success to the owning company as we own several historical 5 stars hotels all over Egypt and the opening of Steigenberger El Tahrir is a great plus to our portfolio. To have a brand of Deutsche Hospitality in the prime location of El Tahrir square five minutes’ walk from the River Nile and surrounded by all big hotel chains and the Egyptian Museum is an added value to the Egyptian Market, wishing all the success to all our partners.”
Award-winning design practice Areen Hospitality is working on the interiors of a new 5 star hotel under the JW Marriott brand, to be built alongside the renowned Marina Smir in Tetouan, Morocco. The 22,500sqm development comprises 194 guestrooms including VIP suites, a spa and three restaurants.
Just 10 miles from the straits of Gibraltar, Marina Smir is Morocco’s first yacht harbour and rapidly becoming the port of choice for those travelling along the waters of the Southern Mediterranean. Tetouan itself, as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an established tourist attraction with significant cultural and heritage significance.
Andrew Linwood, Head of Design, Areen Hospitality, comments: ”As always we search for a balance between providing durable and functional spaces, whilst still offering an interior which surprises and embraces its guests. Traditional Moroccan hospitality is renowned the world over and we wanted to capture this essence within the new JW Marriott Tetouan. Creatively this is always a challenge but one which we feel we have successfully met on this project.”
Soft colours and fabrics are used throughout the scheme, hand tufted rugs in the public areas alongside richly detailed screens. Locally-sourced marble and timber are used extensively, complimented by Arabic geometric patterns incorporated within floor and wall finishes.
Eugenia Rolando, Associate, Areen Hospitality adds: “Inspiration for the design of the interiors is drawn from traditional Moroccan patterns, materials and heritage. Alongside respecting these values, we wanted to provide an elegant and sophisticated interior offering a warm welcome to all hotel guests.”
Hilton has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki to open its first hotel in Casablanca. The news follows the conclusion of a landmark year for Hilton in Morocco which saw it re-establish a presence in the country in March 2016, with the opening of Hilton Garden Inn Tanger City Center.
The mid-scale Hilton Garden Inn brand will now be soon represented in Morocco’s largest city, with construction set to begin this year.
Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf will consist of an initial 118 guest rooms with space available on site for further expansion. The hotel forms part of a mixed use development with a 550sqm ballroom and Moroccan-oriental restaurant also to be built in the vicinity. The Hilton Garden Inn will contain three dining options on property, in addition to another 300sqm of event space to the complex. It is forecast that the hotel may welcome its first guests in 2021.
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts has announced the debut of Sheraton Grand in Africa with opening of Sheraton Grand Conakry. The newly built hotel marks Marriott International’s entry into Guinea, West Africa and joins a portfolio of more than 35 Sheraton Grand properties worldwide, with destinations spanning Istanbul, Dubai, Bangalore, Beijing and beyond.
Within easy reach from the international airport, Sheraton Grand Conakry is conveniently situated in Conakry’s up-and-coming trendy Kipe district. With an enviable ocean-front location, the hotel introduces modern, elegant design, signature brand programing and an elevated guest experience for business and leisure travelers in the heart of West Africa.
All 269 well-appointed guestrooms boast breathtaking ocean views, offering unmatched comfort and the Sheraton Signature Sleep Experience. Contemporary design and local touches blend to create a distinct and vibrant aesthetic.
“We are proud to be the first Sheraton Grand in Africa and Indian Ocean, and to join the existing roster of esteemed hotels and resorts worldwide,” said Helga Deboeck, General Manager of Sheraton Grand Conakry. “We have worked diligently to ensure the hotel goes above and beyond to deliver a fresh, modern and memorable experience to our guests setting a new benchmark of service within West Africa.”
Design Hotels is pleased to announce seven new additions joining a growing portfolio of over 290 independent hotels in more than 50 countries across the globe.
Tucked inside the historic centre of the UNESCO Heritage village of Pienza, La Bandita Townhouse is a rambling palazzo set on a beautiful hill amid quiet Cobblestone streets in Tuscany. The brainchild of Original John Voigtmann, the one time Vice President of International Marketing for Sony Music, was transformed from a dilapidated 500-year-old convent into a luxury 12-room boutique hotel.
La Bandita Townhouse
Through a narrow street and a small tunnel sits Memmo Príncipe Real — home to a secret sightseeing spot with breathtaking views over the city and a gateway to one of the most attractive and charming neighborhoods in Lisbon. Located in the heart of the 41-room hotel Café Colonial is a celebration of the many global influences represented by Lusophone roots.
Memmo Príncipe Real
The result of a decade of careful architectural renovations, Dos Casas Hotel & Spa is set in the heart of San Miguel De Allende, a bustling UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site in Mexico. The result of a decade of careful architectural renovations, 12-room Dos Casas—set within two adjoining 18th-century colonial houses—offers cool vanguard design and warm traditionalism.
Dos Casas Hotel & Spa
Creating a benchmark for casual luxury in Switzerland, Giardino Ascona is a haven committed to charismatic design, casual ambience, and recreational splendour. Located in a spectacular sunny bay of Lake Maggiore, along a tranquil parkland, Giardino Ascona, and its 54 rooms and 18 suites, is awash with Mediterranean joie de vivre.
Behind a refurbished façade that recalls 1950s Palma, Nakar Hotel emerges as a serene retreat through light-soaked lounges, spa, and a spectacular rooftop infinity pool. The structure that houses Azor hotel is a specimen of modern architecture with an imposing cuboid form, an exterior of white stone, and expansive windows of polished glass.
Inspired by the surrounding sea and the volcanic nature of the Portuguese Azores Island of São Miguel, Azor Hotel abounds with natural materials that serve to remind guests of the property’s remote location. Not only do the architect, interior designer, owner, and chef all hail from the island, but the 57-room hotel is fashioned from local materials; serves guests an authentic Mallorcan cuisine; and offers impressive views of the Old Town and the sea.
In one of Taipei’s most cosmopolitan neighborhoods, Hotel Proverbs Taipei takes minimalistic design and pairs it with the utmost in personalized service while adding a dash of hedonism in the process. In one of Taipei’s most cosmopolitan neighborhoods, Hotel Proverbs Taipei takes minimalistic design and pairs it with the utmost in personalised service.
BON Hotels, a hospitality company that owns, manages and markets hotels throughout Africa, hosted their official launch in Nigeria, at BON Hotel Stratton Asokoro in Abuja, last week.
Over the past year, BON Hotels has undertaken an aggressive rebranding and refurbishment campaign of their hotels in Nigeria, with creative input from Delta Design Studio, a specialist hospitality interior design and procurement company. The hotels will be positioned as international 4-star, boutique-style, full-service hotels, at affordable prices, offering personal, friendly and efficient service that is synonymous with BON Hotels’ operating standards.
The properties include:
– BON Hotel Grand Towers
– BON Hotel Stratton Asokoro, refurbished & rebranded
– BON Hotel Abuja, refurbished & rebranded
– BON Hotel Delta
– Protea Hotel Ikeja, refurbished & operated by BON Hotels
– Protea Hotel Victoria Island, refurbished & operated by BON Hotels
Three hotels under construction and due for completion in 2018, are:
– BON Hotel Apo
– BON Hotel Ekiti
– BON Hotel Owerri
Commenting on the refurbishment plan, Guy Stehlik says, “Our strategy is to be competitive in our offering, service delivery and price – to create a four-star standard international Nigerian hotel chain, a tourism circuit if you will that caters to all markets – the inter-regional businessman, the international and Nigerian local traveller, tourists and the leisure sector, with alternatives, designed to meet their requirements.”
Stehlik adds that they have rolled out the upgrades with minimum fuss – the hotels are operating as usual with all staff and general managers remaining in place. The group is also committed to training and empowerment of local Nigerians and significant social investment with their BONangels platform that is focused on supporting local communities through charity drives and events.
Industry stalwart and familiar face to the African hospitality industry, Bernard Cassar, Director of BON Hotels International West Africa, says, “With many larger groups exiting their business interests in Nigeria, we believe that now is the time to support the country that has given us decades of success and we will continue to add value to the local hospitality industry, our guests, our staff, suppliers, the communities in which we serve, and of course our owners.”
With nine hotels across five cities in Nigeria, and the potential of 36 states with their own cities and towns, Nigeria has endless opportunities. Together with new acquisitions in East Africa – in Uganda and Ethiopia – and continued growth prospects throughout the continent to add to their South African and Namibian portfolio, the African sky is the limit.
Bespoke Hotels is delighted to announce that it has reached an agreement to take on the management of The Bab Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco’s bustling and lively ‘Red City’.
Located in the city’s fashionable Gueliz district, The Bab offers a contemporary take on traditional North African hospitality, retaining all the charms that the exotic locale has to offer, while blending modern design and state of the art amenities.
Featuring 45 spacious bedrooms, including 19 suites, The Bab is dressed in black and white and brimming with character. It boasts a modern restaurant, swimming pool and inner courtyard, alongside a traditional spa in the mould of a Turkish bath, as well as conferencing space and an enchanting rooftop venue, ideal for everything from afternoon tea to cocktails beneath the sunset.
“We are thrilled to take on the management and build on the potential of this terrific property”, commented Nick Turner, Managing Director of Bespoke Hotels International. “We look forward to establishing a presence in Marrakech and, in time, expanding our management portfolio across Morocco.”
“This is a historic moment in the fortunes of the hotel”, added owner Abdesselem Ababou. “I am delighted that Bespoke Hotels are bringing their outstanding skills and key personnel to enhance and grow our reputation, both of The Bab and of Marrakech itself as a key international tourism destination.”
The hotel’s relationship with their collaborators and contributors has been a unique feature of the renovation. Curated by Studio Ashby of London, the redesign saw local designers and collaborators tasked with creating bespoke items to form part of a brand new look while enhancing the award-winning facilities.
The Victorian Manor House rooms as well as the Stable and Poolside Suites, the ample gardens and Wellness Room were all set upon by designers and artists including Alexis Barrel, Michael Chandler, Renee Rossouw, House of Gozdawa, Lisa Firer, Rene Botes, Bonfred Furniture among others.
Fashion designer and textile artist Alexis Barrell drew inspiration from local flora and fauna to design a range of textile works using techniques such as hand block printing and intricate and laborious process of carving sketches into wood and printing on cotton with natural dyes by hand.
The Small Restaurant received a new menu courtesy of Rose Ashby of Spring Restaurant at Somerset House in London, with the focus on seasonal produce sourced in the Robertson area Ashby worked alongside head chef Tiaan van Greunen.
The EM BAR, a custom designed bar in blue and white porcelain by artist Michael Chandler, offers a selection of the area’s finest wines and a small range of cocktails.
With the ink just dry on the BON Hotel Addis Ababa contract, BON Hotels, a hospitality company that owns, manages and markets hotels throughout South Africa and Africa, has taken on a second property in East Africa, namely Lake Heights Hotel, Uganda, which is to be re-branded Lake Heights Entebbe by BON Hotels, on 1 October 2016.
This is the latest addition to the BON stable and forms an integral part of the group’s expansion plans into Africa.
Entebbe International airport, currently undergoing a multi-million dollar expansion has high volumes of East African transit business from member states that Lake Heights Entebbe by BON Hotels, given its nearby location, is poised to take advantage of, providing a convenient option for the leisure market, international visitors on their way to Uganda’s national parks, and the corporate traveller en route to Kampala.
The hotel is Entebbe’s first boutique-style hotel and offers 33 individually designed rooms overlooking Lake Victoria, all with signature comfortable beds, generous work spaces and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi. Facilities include a wellness centre, spa and gymnasium, full in-house restaurant and bar overlooking the lake, a purpose-built conference venue and swimming pool.
YES! Hospitality, East Africa Limited, who oversee operations for BON Hotels in East Africa, are excited about the expansion into Uganda – a country that is politically stable and poised for rapid economic growth. Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels adds, “This acquisition further cements our presence in key African countries that we identified some time ago.”
Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge, situated next to Rwanda’s renowned Volcanoes National Park, is on track to open for guests in June 2017. Comprising just six forest villas, Bisate Lodge will offer a luxurious base from which to visit the nearby gorilla conservation experience.
“We are extremely proud of the progress we have made with Bisate, especially with regards to our pioneering reforestation programme which has already seen over 5 000 indigenous trees planted to date in partnership with the newly-created Tuzamurane Cooperative. This incredible opportunity to use our model of responsible ecotourism to contribute to positive conservation and community empowerment in such a unique and exciting Rwanda environment is exactly why we do what we do”, said Wilderness Safaris CEO, Keith Vincent.
Featuring six luxurious forest villas, the real generosity of Bisate in the Rwandan context will be the amount of private and exclusive space that surrounds the Lodge, cosseting it in a rare natural landscape brimming with Albertine Rift biodiversity and beauty. Each spacious forest villa will comprise a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and bathroom, all warmed by a central fireplace and with views out across a private deck towards Mount Bisoke.
Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design will be rooted in Rwandan building tradition as exemplified in the design of the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch. This spherical, thatched structure echoes the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors will exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture.
Accelerating growth in emerging markets across the globe, Starwood Hotels & Resorts has announced the signing of Four Points Benin City, Nigeria.
Owned by Eagle Hospitality and Leisure Limited, the sleek new Four Points hotel is built for the modern traveler with an emphasis on approachable design and stylish comfort. Conveniently located in the heart of Benin City – the capital city of Edo State, one of the 36 states in Nigeria – the hotel is situated within a five-minute drive to the airport and no more than 10 minutes from the government and business district.
Four Points Benin City offers 176 spacious guest rooms and suites along with exciting food and beverage options including an all-day dining restaurant, a pool bar and the brand’s signature Best Brews™ program featuring local beers at the lobby bar and lounge – the ideal spot to watch sports matches and unwind with friends and colleagues.
Other hotel facilities include a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor pool, 400 square meters of flexible meeting spaces and a fully equipped business center. The hotel will provide all of the brand’s defining elements including the signature Four Points bed, complimentary bottled water in all rooms and suites, fast and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, and an energizing breakfast with fresh coffee that helps guests start and end the day right.
With over 200 hotels in nearly 40 countries around the world, Four Points continues to penetrate new markets, globally. The brand is on track to expand its portfolio of rooms by more than 50% in the next five years.
The five-star Leeu Estates has opened its doors in Franschhoek, South Africa.
Numerous designers worked on the property’s architecture, interiors and gardens, including Spanish architect Tomeu Esteva, South African firm Graham Goosen and Johan Malherbe of Malherbe Rust Architects. Cape Town-based studio Beverley Boswell Designs focused on the interiors, while landscape designer Franchesca Watson crafted the gardens.
The 17-room boutique property is located on more than 168 acres of working vineyards. The renovated 19th-century Manor House has contemporary and classic detailing in its guestrooms and suites. Custom architecture and a relaxed colour scheme define the rooms, which also has curated artwork and sculptures from across the globe. Most rooms have terraces and fireplaces.
Named after the Afrikaans word for ‘small buck’, the Bokkie Garden has grasses and hedges typically found in the animal’s diet. There is also a bronze and granite sculpture by South African artist Angus Taylor. The property’s signature Leeu Spa houses a gym with mountain views, a nearly 50-foot-long infinity pool, and various wellness offerings.
Other amenities at the property include the garden terrace, which offers al fresco dining for up to 40 guests, and a reading room with a fireplace and views of the vineyards and gardens.
Located in the heart of Ghana’s thriving cultural scene and the economic hub of Accra, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City is perfectly positioned for memorable corporate events.
This vibrant property is home to the largest conference facilities in Ghana and features over 1,750 sqm of sophisticated meeting space, ideal for hosting up to 850 people. The Kempinski Hotel Gold Goast City Accra is the only 5* hotel offering state of the art meeting facilities in the city. The hotel is a truly desirable destination for the corporate traveller and is located in the central business district within close proximity to government ministries and historical landmarks.
Conference & Meeting spaces
The Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra offers exceptionally high levels of service and style throughout its exclusive spaces. The Grand Ballroom can cater up to 800 guest’s theatre style respectively, while the Executive Meeting Room is a fixed boardroom for up to 16 delegates equipped with cutting edge technology. The beautiful outside function area can be divided to create two individual meeting areas, hosting up to 100 and 250 guests banquet style. Day Delegate packages are also available and include WiFi, room hire, bespoke coffee breaks, stationery and a tailored working lunch. In total the hotel has six meeting rooms between 3sqm and 100sqm, which can be used for presentations, business meetings, banquets or receptions. On the sixth floor, guests staying in the Suites or Executive rooms can enjoy the exclusive privileges of the charming Executive Lounge. The lounge provides an inviting place to enjoy complimentary benefits such as drinks, canapés, newspapers, magazines and two exclusive boardrooms with state-of-the-art technology by day.
Inspired by the heritage and vibrant colours of Ghana, each room features hardwood floors, luxuriant textiles, and carefully selected artwork. The rooms and suites are spacious; 142 of which have their own balconies. The hotel features 269 rooms including 22 luxury suites and 2 presidential suites. The suites draw inspiration from African artistry, featuring comfortable living areas and ergonomic work stations. Executive rooms and suites have the added benefit of overlooking the pool or city of Accra with access to the Executive Lounge. The Presidential Suites offer panoramic views of Accra and complimentary use of a luxury car chauffeur and 24 hour butler service. All rooms feature complimentary WiFi, Interactive TV, In-room safe, private bar and climate control.
The Grand Ballroom
The hotel’s ballroom is the largest and most luxurious in Ghana and the jewel of the conference and event facilities. In total, the ballroom covers 970 sqm, divided between three areas and a foyer, and includes a 50sqm built-in stage. Whether guests plan for a luxury banquet, a musical performance or a glittering cocktail reception, the ballroom will provide a breath-taking venue.
Marrakech is abuzz. Not just because of it currently being peak summer, nor because, earlier this year, when Tripadvisor announced the winners of its 2015 travelers’ choice awards for destinations travellers ranked the city as the top travel destination in the world (last year, it ranked at no. 6).
But, because the long-awaited launch of the five-star L’Amandier hotel has finally been unveiled. It is nestled in the Ouirgane Valley and only an hour from the city.
L’Amandier (Anthony Craddock)
“My brother and I discovered this place some years ago when it was a scrub of land, with a few dying almond trees and nothing else. This was the start of a colourful journey of new friendships, discovering water, running water, sowing seeds, laying brick on top of brick, bring in power…and now we are here,” says Founder, Anwar Harland-Khan.
Well, for those of you in need of inspiration for an international destination, be it for incentive travel, a private party, a conference, a holiday, team builder or celebratory venue, this gem-like haven is a beguiling place.
L’Amandier (Anthony Craddock)
“L’Amandier has been quite a journey,” says Anwar. We are sitting on one of the villa’s expansive sun-warmed terraces, within 12 acres of citrus groves and almond trees, surrounded by a patchwork of valleys and mountain peaks. The panoramic views over the surrounding Toubkal National Park that we’re looking out on are spectacular. Aside from the gentle hum of the call to prayer that I can hear in the distance, it is peaceful, quiet and wonderfully still. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve felt this relaxed. ‘Landscape therapy’ here is instant and you immediately give in to the pace of life. Calm trickles down from the top after all – and Anwar is warmth and charm itself.
I am one of the lucky media guests invited to the hotel’s soft launch (before it officially opens its doors in Autumn 2016), to join his friends and family to celebrate this 12-year project coming full circle.
L’Amandier (Anthony Craddock)
L’Amandier is an environmentally sensitive venture that has remained sympathetic to its surrounding environs. The property has been designed by London-based architect, Nick Gowing, who has juxtaposed the contours of the surrounding landscape with the buildings geometric lines. His aim? To ensure that the beauty of the vista was incorporated into the living and communal areas where possible, through floor-to-ceiling windows (light and space are recurrent motifs throughout), and buildings rendered in the same colour as the rich, red earth of the L’Amandier Plateau, merging it as part of the landscape, in form and function.
L’Amandier (Tara Panchaud)
The premises accommodates up to 46 guests in the six suite boutique hotel and the 13 estate villas. All villas have been sold to private investors but are available to rent (each owner has full use of the hotel’s facilities and access to In-house Catering with Private Chef). Each boasts a vast roof terrace with frame pergola style seating area, swapped with deep cushions and white cotton drapes, and showstopping vistas – the perfect backdrop for sundowners.
The architecture is cubist in form yet embraces the characteristics of a Moroccan riad – whereby the rooms are built around a central courtyard. Each villa accentuates L’Amandier’s philosophy of uniting a contemporary European design aesthetic with traditional Moroccan artistry and sustainable materials, think tadelakt walls, bejmat tiles and local walnut wood for the furniture.
L’Amandier (Anthony Craddock)
Elsewhere there’s a 50-cover restaurant, a blinding 25m-infinity pool, tennis court and a vast 40m2 terrace perfect for alfresco soirées.
Elegant interiors represent a timeless grace and come courtesy of Michael Kopinski. His descriptions of “Zen-like” and “raw” are spot-on, nodding to the country’s past and championing the skill of the Moroccan people, through ethically sourced local products. It’s all in the detail right? Well the subtle intricacies do not go unnoticed. I’m referring to the change of light throughout the day, and how the colours of the bespoke handpicked tiles dotted around the resort flicker between cobalt aqua and silver depending on the positioning of the sun. “The feeling inside the hotel is of shimmering water,” explains Michael. “The colour palette reflects the beautiful rich greens of the surrounding lush valleys and the baked clay colour of the sunsets… but toned down, subdued, an echo.”
L’Amandier (Anthony Craddock)
I felt a shift at L’Amandier. At one point I did nothing but stare at the view for 40 minutes – no need for emails, or phone. It is a heady mix, this seamless blend of indoor-outdoor living and the combination of culture, creativity, spirit and vision.
Hilton is to open a 170 guestroom hotel within the Taghazout Bay Resort located 10 miles north of the Moroccan coastal town of Agadir.
Hilton Taghazout Bay Beach Resort & Spa is set to open in 2018 and will join three Hilton Worldwide hotels currently operating or under development in Morocco.
Hilton Taghazout Bay Beach Resort & Spa is part of Morocco’s new sustainable Taghazout Bay Resort complex, which is set in the peaceful foothills of the Atlas Mountains and overlooks the stunning Atlantic coastline.
A progressive open-skies agreement with Europe has removed the limit on EU flights to Moroccan airports. As a result there are a significant number of flight routes from key source markets including Germany, France and Spain, whose tourists increasingly flock to Taghazout Bay Resort for its peaceful beaches and striking mountainous scenery.
Hilton Taghazout Bay Beach Resort & Spa joins two Hilton Worldwide properties currently under development in Morocco. Hilton Tanger City Centre Hotel & Residences and Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa are both set to open in 2017.
“Hilton Taghazout Bay Beach Resort & Spa takes us one hotel away from 50 Hilton Hotels and Resorts trading or under development across Africa,” said Jim Holthouser, executive vice president, global brands, Hilton Worldwide. “The brand has seen exceptional success across the continent since our longest trading hotel Hilton Addis Ababa first opened in 1969.”
The property will have stylish and spacious outdoor pool areas that overlook the bay’s curving beach, with direct access to the shore for guests of the hotel. In addition to its fully serviced spa the hotel will include two signature restaurants and a bar. For corporate travellers the hotel will include a ballroom suitable for up to 500 delegates and four meetings rooms.
From the Africa Hotel Investment Forum in Togo, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that it will introduce its booming Four Points by Sheraton brand in Tanzania with the signing of Four Points By Sheraton Arusha and Four Points by Sheraton Dar es Salaam. Together both hotels will add more than 230 rooms and significantly expand the brand’s presence in East Africa.
“The entry of Four Points to Tanzania is a milestone addition to our rapidly growing footprint in Africa and reflects the strong traction the brand has gained in the region,” said Michael Wale, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East. “Tanzania has long been on travelers’ bucket list and Four Points by Sheraton is reinventing travel by offering guests exactly what they need while on the road.”
Owned by Union Trust Limited, the historic Arusha Hotel founded in 1894 will be re-branded as a 108-room Four Points by Sheraton after completion of an ongoing renovation. Arusha acts as the major tourist gateway to the Serengeti Safari circuit and Mount Kilimanjaro. Set within three acres of tropical gardens, Four Points by Sheraton Arusha will offer guests a peaceful getaway located only a few kilometers from the famous Clock Tower in Arusha, known to be the Center of Africa.
Also a conversion from an existing independent hotel, the 126 room Four Points by Sheraton Dar es Salaam is owned by New African Hotel Limited and is located in the central business district of Dar es Salaam, close to the docking area known as the “Harbor of Peace.” Dar es Salaam is a gateway to Zanzibar and other exotic islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago as well as to the Northern Safari territories.
Both hotels will offer modern rooms as well as food and beverage options including an all-day dining restaurant and a pool bar. Guests can also experience the brand’s signature Best Brews™ program featuring local beers at the lobby bar and lounge – the ideal spot to watch sports matches and unwind with friends and colleagues. Other hotel facilities include a fitness center, an outdoor pool and flexible meeting spaces. Both hotels will provide all of the brand’s defining elements including the signature Four Points bed, free bottled water in all rooms and suites, fast and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, and an energizing breakfast with fresh coffee that helps guests start and end the day right.
“The Four Points brand has the largest global pipeline within Starwood’s portfolio of brands,” said Neil George, Senior Vice President Acquisitions & Development, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Africa & Middle East. “With two Four Points by Sheraton hotels currently operating in Africa and eight more in the pipeline, the brand is enjoying great interest from developers across the continent. These signings underpin Starwood’s conversion-friendly approach and our ability to convert hotels within a short amount of time as we strive to maximize value for our partners and create experiences for our guests.”
Eurostars Hotel Company, the hotel division of Spain’s Grupo Hotusa, is starting in Africa with the opening of its first hotel in Morocco, the Eurostars Sidi Maarouf 4*.
With this latest addition, the company has now reached 158 hotels in 16 countries in three continents and has opened the door to a destination where it intends to expand its portfolio in the coming months.
The president of the Grupo Hotusa, Amancio Lopez Seijas said:“Having a hotel in Africa was an objective we have had for a long time; we are sure that this will be the first of many. We have a lot of expectations in Morocco, a destination that has a great potential for growth in the urban segment”.
The Eurostars Sidi Maarouf 4* is a new-build modern hotel, located in the La Colline district in the south of Casablanca. It stands out for the elegance and comfort of its facilities, perfect both for pleasure trips and for business trips or small business meetings. The hotel has a multi-purpose hall and two event halls with natural light, both perfect for holding company meetings. The rest of its facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, gymnasium, massage room and yoga room.
The Spanish company has another project on course in Casablanca and is willing to analyse opportunities in Morocco or other African countries, by means of lease contracts, management contracts with purchase of the building or other mixed options, such as franchise. According to Amancio Lopez, “we believe that our know-how, based on over 20 years’ experience running hotels, can be perfectly replicated in several African destinations.”
The Tanzanian based Bakhresa Group has appointed Verde Hotels from South Africa to develop and manage the total overhaul and upgrading of the old Mtoni Marine Hotel in Zanzibar. The brand new five star property will be known as Hotel Verde, and Zanzibar’s ‘greenest hotel’.
“We are serious about being the leaders of the Green Economy sector and therefore we approached the developers of Africa’s greenest properties, Verde Hotels, to ensure that Hotel Verde Zanzibar will be the greenest hotel in East Africa” stated Mr. Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa, Chairman of the Bakhresa Group.
Hotel Verde Zanzibar is set to take sustainable development to new heights in east Africa and become a flagship for tourism in Zanzibar and Tanzania.
Mr. Bahkresa has commissioned the Verde Hotels Group to manage the development and operate the hotel as a certified sustainable establishment that offers a carbon neutral hotel experience. Verde Hotels will work with Estim Construction who have a strong reputation for project excellence in the East African region. Hotel Verde Zanzibar will be pursuing independent certification, utilising the Green Star rating tool from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).
Verde Hotels intends to integrate sustainability into every facet of their involvement in the construction, as well as throughout the hotel’s daily operation.
Sustainability strategies that will be implemented in the redevelopment phase include passive and active design, that optimise resource efficiency; these include: renewable energy generation; regenerative drive elevators, a grey water recycling system, responsible procurement, waste minimisation and management and indoor environmental quality optimisation, to mention just a few.
Hotel Verde Zanzibar will showcase the integration of 5 star luxury and environmental best practice. The hotel will feature 142 ultra-stylish rooms, luxury suites, a spa, gym, restaurants, entertainment and marina.
The contemporary design fused with local Tanzanian elements will be an attraction for local and international guests to enjoy whilst keeping to the standards and practices of responsible tourism principals.
As a hotel management group, Verde Hotels specialises in a turnkey management approach that includes the construction phase of new hotels and the renovation phase of existing buildings that are subsequently operated and managed by Verde Hotels, with sustainability at their core. The aim is to transcend conventional hotel and business standards whilst entering into a new era of environmental consciousness and responsible tourism.
Opening on 1 July 2016, Chobe Water Villas is an exclusive and intimate lodge, accommodating guests in 16 raised villas in the 150km² Namibian Kasika Conservancy. All the villas are situated directly on the edge of a lagoon, enjoying direct views of Sedudu Island, Chobe National Park and the Safari Town of Kasane in Botswana.
Chobe Water Villas will host a maximum of 32 guests in its uniquely positioned villas, lounges, bar, restaurant, infinity pool, pool desk and African “Boma”, a shielded area once used to protect both man and livestock, but now a traditional place to enjoy a “Braai” (BBQ) and camp fire while on safari.
The luxurious water villas have 85m² of living space, including lounge and bedroom areas, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors which fold back completely, opening up to the 19m² front terrace with built in day-bed and views of the Chobe River. Every villa also has a 12m² rear terrace which faces the natural bush and is the perfect spot to enjoy spectacular evening sunsets.
Under thatch and partially open to the gardens, the Main Lodge building overlooks the spectacular infinity pool and pool deck, blessed with unobstructed views of the neighbouring rivers and national parks. The Main Lodge features a 36-seat restaurant, cosy cocktail bar and library lounge with complimentary all day butler station.
May saw the launch of Sofitel’s new 5 star beachfront hotel in Morocco. Stunning architecture, award-winning contemporary design and Arty-Chic atmosphere are set to make Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach & Spa undisputed leader in the Kingdom’s most exclusive coastal resort.
Celebrating the Riviera lifestyle
For guests seeking the perfect blend of leisure and wellbeing, the Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach & Spa offers 82 chic light-filled and intensely colorful guestrooms, all with private balcony and magnificent views of the Mediterranean gardens, pool and beach.
To celebrate the Riviera in style, the hotel proposes the Royal Suite, five Junior suites, three So Spa Suites, five signature villas and eight Beach suites with private terrace and jacuzzi.
French art and Moroccan tradition
Sofitel chose French-Lebanese architect Galal Mahmoud to create Tamuda Bay’s award-winning design, strongly inspired by French Riviera glamour of the 1950s and ‘Fauviste’ artists (including Matisse and Rouault).
Striking contemporary architecture is combined with Moroccan influences, seen in geometric motifs and modern reinterpretation of traditional Mashrabiya latticework.
SoSPA: an oasis of calm and wellbeing
Guests can unwind and chill in the new SoSPA, a vast 1259 sq. metres space entirely dedicated to relaxation. Decorated in warm colours, the Spa offers authentic hammam rituals, sauna, unique hydrotherapy, beauty and detox treatments plus relaxation area. Fitness fans can test the latest So FIT exercise machines and the heated swimming pool.
Located in the heart of Ghana’s thriving cultural scene is a brand new five star luxury hotel, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra. The vibrant property features 269 rooms, including 22 suites and 2 stunning presidential suites.
Art is a key focus for the property and this is reflected in the unique pieces located throughout the hotel and in the independent contemporary art gallery located inside the hotel known as Gallery 1957. Taking its name from the year Ghana gained independence; the gallery represents artists such as Jeremiah Quarshie, Yaw Owusu, Serge Attukwei Clottey and Zohra Opoku.
Featured in the hotel’s collection are also outstanding pieces by Agosor, Ni Mills, Krotei Tetteh, Gideon Appah and Ablade Glover.
Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra encourages both local audiences and international visitors to discover new artists and to gain a deeper understanding of the breadth of their practices through the hotel installations and exhibitions at the gallery. With a range of exquisite dining options and a new spa to open in November, the property lives up to its name as the only true 5* hotel in Accra.
Marwan Zakhem commented, “The gallery evolved from my experience as a collector of contemporary African art. I began building relationships with artists and understanding their creative process better. I decided to found Gallery 1957 to support, complement and highlight the art scene that is already started to grow here in Accra. It wanted to establish the gallery to provide increased opportunities for artists based in Ghana and the hotel provided the ideal location. The work being created here is very exciting, emotive and often experimental and I hope visitors will enjoy the experience of discovering art at the Kempinski.”
The Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana property, in Marrakech will have 140 keys and be located at M Avenue, the new shopping, entertainment and residential destination in Marrakech.
Catering to both business and leisure travellers, the property will feature modern facilities including three dining outlets, meeting rooms, conference and banquet halls, wireless internet access, a swimming pool, and a fitness studio.
Rotana president and CEO Omer Kaddouri said: “We are very proud to have been selected to manage this property which will have great appeal, particularly among tourists and long stay guests. Our new Arjaan in Marrakech will offer everything guests need to be comfortable and productive, and will exude sophisticated elegance across all facets of the property.”
The M Avenue is a dedicated lifestyle district with a mix of premium hotels, residences, offices, retail outlets, restaurants, cafés, art galleries and exhibition venues, along a 500-metre-long promenade entitled ‘Garden Avenue’.
“The M Avenue intends to play a central role in the lives of the region’s residents and tourists, providing a new way to experience Marrakech by weaving links between a rich heritage and modern Morocco,” said Nabil Slitine, general manager of Downtown Hotel Corporation, developer of M Avenue.
In 2014, Marrakech hosted 1.89 million tourists with six million overnight stays. The increase in international visitor arrivals was driven by a number of factors including re-introduction of several airline routes that had earlier been suspended during the economic downturn, as well as the city’s emergence as a MICE and events tourism destination.
This month, Wilderness Safaris, the award-winning luxury safari operator, is delighted to announce the opening of the rebuilt and revamped Ruckomechi Camp, located in its private concession in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park.
“We are extremely proud to welcome guests to our beautiful new camp which still retains the understated tented luxury and nostalgic safari feel that is synonymous with Ruckomechi,” says Wilderness Safaris Zambezi MD, Ron Goatley.
Comprising just ten spacious tented suites (eight of which have opened, with a further two family suites opening on 1st August 2016), the camp boasts the same wide-angled views of the Zambezi River and the dramatic purple-hued escarpment of Zambia in the distance. All the tents, as well as the central dining, bar and lounge areas face this evocative scene, often with an elephant or two included in the spectacle. The pool, star-gazing deck and outdoor ‘bath with a view’ add to the incredible camp offering.
Subtle interiors were chosen for the guest areas and tented suites to ensure that the main focal point remained the sweeping views of the surrounding wilderness.
“We used lots of blues in the guest tent interiors which were inspired by the beautiful deep-blue colours of the Zambezi River at sunset; these hues are picked up in the Trading Glass beads in the Lozi wooden bowls and the hand-blown glass vases on the console tables and desk, as well as the natural cotton linen denim scatter cushions,” says Interior Designer and bush enthusiast, Mandy Langebrink, who has worked with Wilderness Safaris on a number of camps for the past 20 years.
“The coolness of the Zambezi River is reflected in the light elegance of the stylish interiors, with the blues offset by the light tones of the solid wooden furniture, all complementing the old African artefacts of the Turkana and Tuareg bowls and the rustic coffee table. Large leather sofas create the perfect space for relaxing in between game drives and the elegant louvre screens provide a sense of lightness and temporary style of the ‘old camping days,’ Mandy added. “The camp epitomises luxury in style; one that is totally in touch with its surroundings.”
Luxury safari camp and lodge operator Elewana has opened a new luxury tented camp on the site of the former Loisaba Lodge. Located on a 600ft escarpment, every room in Loisaba Tented Camp enjoys spectacular views stretching across the Laikipia Plains to Mount Kenya.
Elewana has been chosen by Loisaba Conservancy, with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to partner with it in the development and management of its primary tourism assets in this critically important conservation area that has been recently secured by TNC for ongoing protection for the foreseeable future. The new camp is part of the Elewana Collection – a portfolio of fifteen properties spanning the highlights of East Africa’s safari and beach offerings.
Loisaba Tented Camp comprises six stylish and extremely spacious ensuite tents (three double/three convertible twin/double), three family combinations each consisting of two ensuite tents with adjoining walkway. The Private Residence houses three ensuite tents (one family combination and one convertible tent) complemented with a private bar, dining area and infinity pool. Not least of all, the property will reflect Elewana and TNC’s commitment to the environment by limiting its ecological footprint wherever possible.
Commenting on the partnership, Karim Wissanji, Elewana’s CEO, said, “The partnership with The Nature Conservancy highlights Elewana’s passion and commitment to conservation, one that is reflected in its support (financial and otherwise) for this exciting new project; a project that sits at the very heart of TNC’s community, wildlife and land conservation philosophies and their important collaboration with tourism.”
Matthew Brown, Africa Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy remarks, “Tourism support helps make Loisaba a self-sustaining engine for peace, community development, and wildlife conservation. This is an innovative example of how Africa can both preserve its heritage and create economic opportunities for its people. We are excited to be working with Elewana.”
Meliá Hotels International has announced the signing of three new hotels during the Arab Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) last week in Dubai…
• Gran Meliá Maldives, Indian Ocean – it will offer a mixture of luxurious private villa and guestroom living within one of the best fishing and diving destinations in the Maldives
• Meliá Serengeti Lodge, Tanzania, Africa – The first state-of-the-art sustainable hotel by MHI, the hotel will offer ‘off the grid’ living and the perfect viewpoint for the annual migration of one million blue wildebeest, lions, leopards and zebras
• Meliá Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia – the first hotel to be signed by Meliá Hotels International in Kazakhstan – a wealthy country located in the heart of Eurasia (countries situated within the borders of Europe and Asia) – it will bring to life a new city hotel concept for corporate travellers and congresses
Gran Meliá Maldives
Scheduled to launch October 2017 and set amongst virgin coral reef, the Gran Meliá hotel will offer 95 private villas, including 100 rooms, as well as three restaurants, a bar and café, spa, leisure centre and several retail shops. The hotel will also be able to arrange and host exclusive private events and romantic dinners on a smaller nearby island. 66 per cent of Maldivian visitors are honeymooners or guests who wish to enjoy an idyllic beach holiday with exceptional diving.
Meliá Serengeti Lodge (Tanzania)
Meliá Serengeti Lodge, scheduled to open in June 2017, will be Meliá Hotels International first state-of-the-art sustainable hotel, located on the natural terraces on the southern slopes of Nyamuma, with spectacular views over the peaceful valley of the Mbalageti River. To be located 700 meters below the peak of Nyamuma, the hotel will offer a perfect viewpoint for the annual migration of one million blue wildebeest, lions, leopards and 250,000 zebras which pass through the valley every year in search of rains and cooler pastures.
Meliá Serengeti Lodge will sit on three natural terraces that descend from an elevated plateau, with the lodge located on the middle terrace and the hotel’s architectural design will adopt the gentle curves of the land, creating an intimate link with the vegetation and rocky outcrops. The location’s natural surroundings have inspired the design of this unique hotel, as the suites will offer a unique and privileged African experience in a secure and luxurious environment.
Meliá Serengeti Lodge will boasts 50 rooms consisting of 25 ‘Meliá Forest’ rooms, 23 ‘Meliá Hills’ rooms and two ‘Serengeti Suites’. The lounges and restaurants will overlook sunny terraces around an infinity pool with pool bar, barbecue patios, with stone and foliage strategically planted and designed to ensure a cool and attractive environment.
Meliá Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Meliá Almaty is the first hotel to be signed by Meliá Hotels International in Kazakhstan. The hotel will be situated amongst the mountains of Tien Shan, Altay, and Ulytau, a winter sports paradise. Kazakhstan is blessed with vast natural resources of oil, gas and mines; as well as traditional cultural attractions that illuminate the relationship between the Kazakh people and nomadic tribes, influenced by the Russian occupation in the 18th century. In 2013, the country received five million visitors and this is expected to grow to eight million by 2024.
Meliá Hotels International will launch a hotel specialising in corporate travel and congresses in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan until 1997, as it is the largest city in the country, which aims to become one of the top 30 economies in the world by 2050.
Meliá Almaty will open in 2018, providing 250 rooms, including 50 Suites and Junior Suites. The hotel will boast cutting-edge architectural design through a steel and glass structure that will also home a restaurant, bar, lounge, spa and fitness centre, as well as meeting rooms.
Louvre Hotels Group has strengthened its position in the Middle East and North Africa by announcing the opening of 40 economy hotels over the next five years.
A seasoned player in the Middle East region with 60 hotels and over 8,000 rooms, Louvre Hotels Group brings its experience into play to meet the market dynamic. With the support of its shareholder Jin Jiang International, the hotel group continues its development strategy on the low-end and mid-range segments by privileging its Première Classe and Campanile brands, operating a network of over 650 hotels worldwide. The Group’s next step is to open 40 new hotels in the region within the next 5 years.
Since it was launched in 1989, Première Classe has renewed the super-budget hotel sector by adopting a veritable strategy combining low-cost and comfort. The brand delivers the promise of a unique experience: essential comfort, all-you-can-eat breakfast and modern and functional rooms with WiFi access. Today, Première Classe counts 264 hotels in 6 countries.
Campanile, the historic French brand founded in 1976, counts 375 hotels in 8 European countries and is the fourth largest restaurant network in France. To create the right design match for its brand image, authentic and welcoming, the brand called on French designer Patrick Jouin, while Michelin-starred chef Philippe Renard worked on its restaurant menu. 2016 will be an important year in Campanile’s globalisation strategy; in addition to moving into the Middle East, it will open its first hotel in Shanghai, China in the summer this year.
“By developing Première Classe and Campanile on the Middle East and North African markets where our 4- and 5-star brands are already established, we are meeting a real local need for economy hotels by offering clients uncompromising service quality,” explains Pierre-Frédéric Roulot, President and CEO of Louvre Hotels Group.
The first Première Classe hotel will open its doors in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2018, while the first Campanile hotel locations will be announced in the coming months. These new opportunities dovetail into the Group’s international development strategy, while meeting needs identified by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
According to the UNWTO, the number of international tourists in the Middle East grew by 3% in 2015 to reach a total of 54 million, consolidating a recovery begun in 2014.
A brand new five-star luxury hotel, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra, has arrived at the heart of Ghana’s capital. The property features 269 rooms including 22 suites and 2 presidential suites with entry level rooms from an expansive 50sqm: the largest room size in Accra.
Home to the brand new Resense Spa due to open in late 2016, the hotel offers world-class conference facilities and a variety of dining options. Just six hours from London with daily British Airways flights, guests will be immersed in a vibrant Ghanaian revival. European luxury at the heart of an African renaissance, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City is the centrepiece of a ground breaking ongoing development for the capital; encompassing offices, residential and retail space.
Rooms & Suites
Inspired by the heritage and colours of Ghana, each room features hardwood floors, luxuriant textiles, and carefully selected artwork. The rooms and suites are spacious; 142 of which have their own balconies. Deluxe, Executive and Superior rooms draw inspiration from African artistry, featuring comfortable living areas and ergonomic work stations. Executive rooms and suites have the added benefit of overlooking the pool or city of Accra with access to the executive lounge. The Presidential Suites offer panoramic views of Accra and complimentary use of a luxury car chauffeur and 24 hour butler service.
Meetings & Conferences
Perfectly located for the corporate traveller, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City is in close proximity to the State House, Accra International Conference Centre and the National Theatre. The hotel also provides the ideal venue for meetings and events with more than 1750sqm of meeting and banquet space. From elegant affairs in the grand ballroom to productive meetings and special open-air events, the expertly designed conference facilities are world-class. The hotel’s Ballroom is the largest and most luxurious in Ghana. Eight further meeting rooms and break out spaces feature innovative technology, such as touch panels built into the tables.
Gallery 1957 is a new gallery in Accra dedicated to contemporary art situated in the hotel. With an initial curatorial focus on contemporary Ghanaian art, the gallery presents a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the country’s most significant artists under the Creative Directorship of Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Gallery 1957 works with artists currently bridging the gap between local and international practices, including Serge Attukwei Clottey, Zohra Opoku, Jeremiah Quarshie, Ibrahim Mahama and Yaw Owusu.
Spa & Fitness
Opening in late 2016, the Resense Spa at Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City will transport guests to an oasis of sophisticated relaxation with gold mosaic interiors, 10 treatment rooms, and a hammam. Set to be one of the largest spas in West Africa, the spa invites guests across a dramatic threshold into a lounge with the atmosphere of a chic private members’ club. Guests will also be delighted by the spa menu, based on traditional European treatments, including the Resense bathing ‘Kur,’ combining ancient Roman bathing traditions with a holistic approach of natural therapies. For guests who want to enhance their wellbeing, the Health Club also offers a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool, fully fitted state-of-the-art gymnasium, yoga studio, health and beauty salon, tennis court and organic bar.
Restaurants & Bars
At Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, guests will enjoy the flavours of Africa blended with international cuisine, appealing to all tastes and occasions from a family meal to a business lunch. The Papillon Restaurant is a vibrant all day restaurant showcasing Mediterranean flavours and the best in local Ghanaian cuisine. The infinity Papillion Pool Lounge offers views over the greens of the Cedar Terrace and a waterfall running all the way down to the Cedar Garden. Cabana style seating offer daytime relaxation, while moonlights and lanterns set the mood in the evening. Meanwhile, in the Cedar Garden, opening in late 2016, you can dine on Lebanese and Oriental cuisine and partake in a shisha experience. Alternatively, the Gallery Bar is the perfect place for guests to socialise. A short distance away, the Gallery Lounge is a comfortable lounge venue to see and to be seen. A place where the guests come for afternoon tea or a glass of wine, while listening to custom designed lounge music or live piano.
The Galleria Mall
The Galleria mall, set to open in late 2016 will offer 6,000 sq. m of high-end retail and commercial office space. Substantial underground parking and a carefully selected tenant mix of both local favourites and premium international brands such as Hugo Boss, Versace and Roche Bobois opening flagship stores for the first time in Ghana. The Galleria will also house a unique food hall that will combine a traditional market feel with the latest modern interventions. Retail food outlets, dining areas, coffee bars and an outside terrace all combine to create an exciting offering.
Leeu Collection has acquired its first UK property, the acclaimed Lake District hotel, Linthwaite House.
It is Leeu Collection’s first property outside of South Africa, where the group currently operates two hotels (Leeu House and Le Quartier Francais), with a third – Leeu Estates – due to open in June 2016.
Linthwaite House is a celebrated, four-AA Red Star Hotel located in the South Lake District (South Lakes). Originally built as a country house in 1901, this boutique hotel has been independently owned for 25 years. Situated in 14 acres of landscaped gardens, the property offers complete privacy and spectacular panoramic views across Lake Windermere and the surrounding fells. Accommodation is offered in 30 en-suite bedrooms and the hotel also has a 3 AA Rosette restaurant.
Renowned for its homely comforts and for being a haven of tranquillity, Linthwaite House personifies the best of traditional British hospitality. Garnering a Best Service honour from Conde Nast Johansens 2016 UK & Ireland Awards for Excellence, as well as the Good Hotel Guide’s, Editor’s Choice 2016 award in the Romantic Hotel category, this acquisition echoes Leeu Collection’s founder, Indian industrialist Analjit Singh’s vision of creating unrivalled escapes and offering visitors extraordinary experiences.
Leeu Collection comprises four properties, three in South Africa and now one in Britain. Leeu is the Afrikaans word for lion, as is Singh in Sanskrit.
All three of the Leeu Collection’s South Africa properties are located in the Western Cape’s wineland town of Franschhoek just under an hour’s drive from Cape Town and its International Airport.
The number of planned hotel rooms in Africa has soared to 64,000 in 365 hotels, up almost 30% on the previous year, according to new figures from the annual W Hospitality Group Hotel Chain Development Pipeline Survey.
The increase is largely down to strong growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which is up 42.1% on 2015 and is significantly outstripping North Africa which achieved only a modest 7.5% pipeline increase this year.
A major shake-up in the rankings by country saw Angola, never before listed among the top 10, push Egypt out of second place, due to a major deal there signed by AccorHotels.
The W Hospitality Group survey is published ahead of the African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) (www.Africa-Conference.com), which is organised by Bench Events. The conference attracts all the major international hotel investors in Africa and is being held for the first time in Lomé on 21-22 June. A second AHIF will also take place in Kigali, Rwanda on 4-6 October.
Trevor Ward, W Hospitality Group managing director, said: “The evidence from our survey is clear – investors remain confident about the future of the hospitality industry on the continent. Even when pummelled daily by low commodity prices, exchange rate problems, political challenges and poor infrastructure, Africa remains resilient.”
The IMF forecast for economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is for an increase of 4% this year and 4.7% in 2017, up from 3.5% in 2015. Overall this is down on the 5-6% increase enjoyed over the past decade, but it’s still double or more the forecast for the world’s advanced economies, such as Europe, the USA and Japan.
Matthew Weihs, managing director of Bench Events, said: “Africa is still on the up. For business, trade and capital investment, the continent remains an attractive proposition, leading to continuing demand for accommodation and other hospitality services.”
Secluded on a pristine private island in the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique, Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort has reopened following an extensive refurbishment.
The 12-villa, adults-only African island hideaway now features refreshed décor, luxury villa upgrades and new signature experiences, including a Robinson Crusoe-style star bed for the ultimate romantic escape.
Now, with a host of enhancements, the resort has reopened to offer more unique signature experiences and natural attractions and will soon be the only African island resort to use 100% solar energy.
Refreshed décor gives Anantara Medjumbe a distinctive African island identity. The resort has been extensively restyled using colourful patterns to depict the vibrancy of local culture. Shades of blue and aqua reflect the evolving hues of the Indian Ocean. All of the 12 thatched Beach Pool Villas, which open onto soft powdery sands, exude a sense of natural luxury, including newly designed private splash pools with an aqua mosaic finish, and a built-in Champagne step to sip bubbles while admiring the Indian Ocean view.
In the guest villas and public areas, the majority of furniture and lighting was custom designed by interior designers, Savile Row, and produced in Indonesia and South Africa with incredible attention to detail. Various accessories were sourced from around the African continent and framed artworks were created using traditional wax printed capulana fabrics that were sourced from local markets.
The new five-star Steigenberger Alcazar Resort, set in a beach location directly on the Red Sea coast, will be ready to receive its first guests from mid-May. This will be Steigenberger’s eighth venture in Egypt. Three contracts have been signed during the last three years.
The hotel will offer 610 rooms, including seven Junior Suites and two villas as well as five different restaurants and four bars. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the benefits of a modern conference area able to stage meetings and events as well as being able to access spa and gym facilities.
“Egypt is an important location for the Steigenberger Hotel Group,” said Puneet Chhatwal, CEO of Steigenberger Hotels AG. “The new resort in Sharm El Sheikh fits seamlessly into our existing portfolio and strengthens our position on the market. Together with the opening of the Steigenberger Tahrir Square in July we are well set.”
The Alcazar Resort is situated in the Bay of Nabq on the Sinai Peninsula and offers hotel guests the use of a 3,000 m2 private beach. The area features an extensive underwater environment which is ideal for diving and snorkelling.
Going green means many things to many people, from adding solar power panels to a roof to a through total reworking of energy use. In our sophisticated cities, going green generally has to be driven by financial return, and the effort involved focusses on energy use. Premier Inn are an excellent example of a group trying to build carbon neutral hotels at no higher cost than any other new build, and who look for a return on investment of around the 7% mark — something that could not be achieved in early years of solar panels, hence many of their properties only now have them added, whilst recycling of heat, and other energy saving measure had previously been adopted.
In some cases however a totally different approach is taken. In Namibia the Damaraland Lodge impressed me by the use of local materials and the ability to remove the hotel, leaving virtually no trace, if the market no longer supported it. In part this was driven by the location in a wilderness where there were no mains services. I was told the only delivery to site was 30,000 empty sand bags, everything else in construction being generated locally. Where the attraction for tourists is the environment, then it makes sense for the hotel operator to tread softly upon the earth or risk damaging that which attracts the guest in the first place. As wilderness decreases so preserving it for tourism becomes an issue.
Teniqua Treetops falls into the category of an environmentally sensitive property focused on sustainability whilst bringing the guest into the wildlife environment too, but here the mix is complicated by the owner’s self-build approach. With just 8 suites built in the treetops of native forest in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, these rooms are the ultimate in recycling, with, for example, many of the windows and doors being recycled from salvage yards. This ecologically sensitive approach provides comfortable suites providing self-catering hideaways just off the popular Garden Route in South Africa.
In truth this kind of hospitality resort has laid the foundation of what has become known in the UK as ‘glamping’ – glamour camping. Not quite tents these rooms none-the-less make good use of camping antecedents. Built on the steeply raking slopes of the Karatara river valley these rooms are isolated from each other, and but for the car port outside, could almost be isolated from the 21st century too, except that despite their self-build nature the solar power and water heating panels are sophisticated enough to cater for most of the needs of guest. Air conditioning and heating is however driven off a backup mains electricity supply so creature comfort is catered for in a way any other form of ‘glamping’ would not be able to do.
Creature comforts are catered for in other ways that mark this as an hotel — for example rooms are serviced daily by housekeepers who access on four wheel drive bikes. The environmentally friendly nature is essential given the build is on the edge of the river valley and away from traditional mains services such as water and sewerage. Water is supplied from rainwater capture, and this is one of the areas of the world with the cleanest air, so the rainwater is drinkable, although most guests bring their drinking water in bottle form.
The hot water supply is adequately supplied in this environment by the solar panels but just in case there is a bottle gas back up, which also provides the gas for the kitchen area. If there is a downside here it is the non flushing soil toilets. A strong arm is needed to work the levers that expel the ordure, and the lack of smell is proof of their functional effectiveness. The mix is allowed to age and emptied to be returned to the land as fertiliser, but despite this there is still an initial ‘yuk’ factor.
All these practical considerations fade into the background when standing looking out at the view. The ‘old mans’ beard’ fronds of lichen Usnea on the trees is very sensitive to pollution and here grows to metres long showing how pure the air is. The forest below the rooms is one of the last remnants of native South African fynbos forest. This is one of the first hotels where there is a list of reasons not to come on the booking site, starting with the observation: * If you are someone who has phobias about flora or fauna: trees, plants, birds, wild animals, insects, snakes, butterflies, moths, tame animals…don’t come.
* We won’t, don’t, can’t fumigate the forest…so, if you would rather be in a sterile environment…don’t come.
In the past guest have also left because of the lack of means for obscuring the views from the bathrooms. As there is no way anyone can look in not reflections in glass, no passers-by in streets, none except possibly a passing sea bird to see you shower this is an hotel where you can revel in the freedom an individually isolated room can provide. During our stay the only intrusive strangers were the occasional spider, the proximity of bird life and the inquisitiveness of the hotel cat (Marlene), who insisted on accompanying walks through the forest.
The bedrooms are secure, with the additional safety of insect nets and inner canvas liners that can be zipped closed at night. During the day the large balconies allow many hours of sun drenched contemplation of the treetops, bird watching and listening to the animal noises from the forest below, tuning in to the natural world. This form of retreat is rare and to be treasured. Yet there is also a social area to this property, complete with a small conference facility, and a pool area for those for whom company of a significant other is not enough. Imaginative recycling throughout the property is marked by the outdoor furniture (one of the owners is an engineer)and the creation of play areas provides and energy consuming area for offspring.
There is a communal braaii area for those who want to indulge the manic obsession South Africans have with burning everything over wood fires, or as a relief from self catering in the individual kitchens within each room. There is a small shop on site but it is an easy drive over deserted roads to go shopping for those gorgeous and cheap South African wines if you didn’t bring along enough in the first place. With any installation in the treetops the problems of how to supply water and take away waste are major concerns. Electricity whether generated via solar or the national grid is relatively simple via a thin(ish) cable. Water and sewage pipes tend to be both bulky and need long trenches to make the provision.
here rainwater provides a large part of the answer and notices in the bathroom, which despite the limitations boast both shower and bath tub, push the lesson home saying showers are for one, baths for two (and may be helps with the popularity with honeymooners…). Guest are invited every time they turn on a tap to choose between the solar heated and gas heated water. At no stage did the hot water supply seem inadequate even on dull days, when the solar heating was selected.
Occasionally the water colour will be somewhat ‘cola-coloured’ as the hotel describes it, because of the tanin that comes in water supply from the forest area, as water or bathing is pumped up from the river below. Rainwater however is very pure and quite drinkable.Both river and rain water have been tested and are potable. The brown colour could be removed from the river water with flocculation (chemicals) and lots of energy and waste (completed flocculent). The operation knows this would not be environmentally justifiable…
Sewerage is a less tractable problem and here the latest dry toilet systems are used to safely and efficiently process human waste without threatening the sensitive Karatara catchment area; septic tanks are used to avoid damage to the underlying root bed of the forest floor and avoid polluting a water course. This means each time the toilet is used, a scattering of forest leaf fall is added and the lid lifted and dropped to power a spiral screw which removes the waste into the septic tank. This is not a silent forest, the sound of birds and wildlife ample tribute to the care and concern the owners have taken to protect what is, after all, their major asset. Here walks may give sightings of caracal (a form of wild cat) or even possibly leopard, Small buck and monkeys and copious bird-life provide a nature lovers idyll.
This is not a destination for those who love cities and night-life epitomised by the pub and nightclub. This is somewhere to feel the soul of the earth, to sit in contemplation watching a sunset, to be at one with the world. Such places are rare, and need to be treasured.
Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, Every morning commuter trains bring civil servants in to work, in a town with tree shaded streets and plenty of historically interesting buildings, including the home of Paul Kruger, once one of the leaders of the Boer tribe. Indeed Boer history has been surprisingly allowed to remain as a dominant tourist feature in this town with the monument to the Boer trekkers towering above the city on one side, whilst the Union Buildings (parliament building) dominates the central area.
Herbert Baker is one of those streets seen in many capital cities, where large mansions sit in their own grounds isolated from the daily hubbub of the city. As usual in South Africa each is surrounded by an electric fence on top of a high wall. In these exclusive grounds now nestles one of a number of small boutique properties supplementing the limited hotel offerings in Pretoria from the likes of Sheraton.
In bustling South Africa the absence of the chain hotel groups so common throughout the rest of the world is noticeable. One has to question why these predominantly European or US led chains are so blind to markets such as this, with growth economically over 7% and tourism growth higher. Tourism growth is at 17% in neighbouring Tanzania for example, where ministers have aggressively sold their countries offering in particular to the US market.
The news that Marriott are buying South African operator Protea, who have over 100 properties throughout Africa is good news for the continent and for the Protea Group home market of South Africa in particular (the protea being south Africa’s national flower). Hopefully I will be able to report on a Protea in South Africa later in the year. After Hilton taking over the Hilton Cape Town last year this news is an injection of quality that the mass market needs throughout the continent. Whilst there are plenty of home grown quality hotels such as the Cape Grace or Bushmans Kloof for example the lack of depth a major chain would bring is noticeable, especially in the burgeoning budget sector.
Much of the gap in quality in mid-level hotels has been filled by high end boutique B&B’s or small boutique hotels style properties like the Robertson Small Hotel. Set in a large garden on the border of a reserve on the edge of Pretoria, the desire of the owners of 131 Herbet Baker for this to be seen as a five star operation is torpedoed by poor management exemplified by a casual attitude to serving what is on the menu. Unannounced ingredients on a plate may surprise but do not allow for allergies, likes or dislikes on the part of the guest, they just make life easy for the kitchen. Menus are typed on the computer so it is easy to present them to show what has been bought fresh from the market that day – advertising dishes that are no longer available is unforgiveable.
Management has been successful in building a local following for the property, a difficult task in South Africa despite the growth of local internal tourism and business markets. Building relationships across social divides that still exist like chasms in South Africa is difficult. This has been managed and achieved successfully by the owners, but service standards also need the same focus along with training.
The hotel interiors are stylish, let down by a little over elaboration in the decor, sometimes less can truly be more. However the results are comfortable, and the hotel makes the most of a difficult plan. The original layout of the dining room cut across a bedroom access route, and the revised positioning gives it the benefit of the views across Pretoria. The difficulty of the new arrangement is the waiting staff then have a flight of stairs and reception to navigate between diners and kitchen.
A sharp maitre d’ would benefit service levels, perhaps something that could be doubled up with the bar and wine service. The dining space shares the room with the bar, both treading an uneasy line as the property with only 8 rooms and an apartment doesn’t fill the spaces busily – difficult to see a ‘passing trade’ although there were some outside diners during our stay. There could perhaps be more definition between the two areas, perhaps even a physical redefinition, making more of the fireplace to create a snug bar feel at one end. Enclosing the space for dining, and narrowing space between the dining tables would make it feel a little busier, more intimate.
The large space with windows opening to an outside dining terrace (down more steps) may be delightfully cool in the hot summer months but feels a little bleak in the winter, a common problem in properties optimised for the hot climate that prevails for many months.On the other hand adding floor to ceiling window doors with a balcony would considerably enhance the space in both seasons. Originally the dining room had the colonnaded terrace as part of the dining experience and having dined on the similar pool terrace at Bushmans Kloof it is possible to see how attractive this could be. In summer I would imagine this space is used for table and chairs off what is now the the lounge making the pool area a more social space.
Even in the winter this area is a sun trap and more could be made of it, as it is attractive and secluded.
All these spaces are a good size for the nature of the property and the number of bedrooms. They are supplemented by the large outside garden terrace area with its extensive view across Pretoria, enabling small functions to be accommodated too. The luxury of having outside terraces and large spaces is a major advantage to the hotel, and carries through into the bedrooms too.
There is also a room available for private functions and meetings with its own sheltered courtyard suitable for coffee breaks etc. Taken with the terrace this enables the property to host small receptions or weddings etc. The bedrooms are large and luxuriously fitted out, and the bathrooms too are generously sized with soaking tubs and walk in showers, all fitted with a local stone. Some bedrooms have their own terraces looking across the skyline of Pretoria, whilst others open on to the internal quadrangle housing the pool.
Bedroom design has been thoughtful with socket plates carrying different types of plugs (US, European, South Arican & British) making keeping equipment charged easy. The is free WiFi too, bottled water and a humidifier alongside the airconditioning. French windows give onto terraces in most bedrooms, and the styling is typically European in feel.
Rooms have individual air conditioning and bathroom have the luxury of underfloor heating. Humidifiers are added for additional guest comfort.
131 Herbet Baker is a very attractive boutique that has considerable potential to offer more. The major issue is the restaurant layout which has been changed but still needs tweaking to provide maximum benefit. The kitchen offering also needs resolving – mainly simply through much sharper management.
Almost a ‘country house’ property within Pretoria the owners have worked hard to create their boutique. If you are planning a stay in the Johannesburg area then this property may fit your needs. For those who worry about their safety in South Africa, I believe after my numerous visits that for someone who lived in Camberwell the dangers here are no greater than in many big cities like London, New York,or the banlieues of Paris. Be streetwise and take advice from your hosts and you will be rewarded with a sense of history, stunning landscapes and fantastic bird and wildlife in what is becoming one of the world’s best tourist destinations.
Last time I rode a luxury train it was the Orient Express UK end, steam pulled from London to Kidderminster, and not the blue of Mallard or Sir Nigel Gresley either. Intended to be a celebration for designers of some good years when planned, the Lawson-induced crash turned it into a wake — grown men crying as they realised the Tory party had bankrupted them in the search for parity with the new Euro, much as many grown men cried in 2010 as they realised bankers had shafted them in this latest crash.
The decision to take the African equivalent of the Orient Express, was one haunted by my 1992 ghosts, but the Blue Train provided an effective exorcist. The train runs a regular luxurious service between Pretoria and Cape Town, timetabled as 27 hours. It harks back to a more graceful era of travel, and is all the better for that.
Relaxed journeys are for those who enjoy travelling as much as arriving, essential here as much of the line is single track. Delays are almost inevitable as we waited for mile long freight trains full of South African minerals to trundle past on the sections of loop track where this was possible. The train describes itself as a window into the soul of Africa, and it does a pretty good job of giving a privileged window into South Africa as it travels the 1000 miles through informal settlements, townships, small towns and farming communities, through a wide variety of land and townscapes.
We started in Tshwane, the administrative capital of South Africa that used to be better known as the capital of Afrikanerdom under the name Pretoria. Surprisingly the Voortrekker monument to the brutal Dutch pioneers still stands high on its dominating hill above the city. Almost a suburb of Johannesburg now, Tshwane is a busy city dominated by the civil servants that run government and the Blue Train starts its journey in the main station, still labelled Pretoria, amongst the busy commuter trains, including the new high speed ‘Gautrain’, standard Metro trains and dedicated Metro Business expresses.
Standing on its own dedicated platform the Blue Train waits the passengers who check in to their own comfortable lounge, where the crew serve welcome drinks and are introduced to their charges. When all guests are assembled they are called off by suite number, baggage loaded in the baggage car and mealtime preferences registered.
The superb dining car can seat half the train at a time, and early brunch can be chosen along with the early dinner, but the guests first have time to settle into the marvellous cabins before they start to eat. Entrance onto the train itself is a piece of theatre and the wood panelled and brass railed corridors barely prepare the guest for the richness of the design of the classical interiors, full of gleaming brass and glowing timber marquetry.
I have stayed in some pod hotels, and some so called 5-star hotels with tiny bedrooms that cannot compare with the luxury achieved in these railway carriages. My cabin had a comfortable lounge with a huge picture window and its own gold tapped en-suite marble bathroom. The choices of cabin include a special provision for the less able and larger luxury cabins with more floor space. Twin or doubles, bath or shower complete the choice. Unlike most hotels the choice is offered on booking, too. Would that hotels that offer shower only bathrooms gave the guest the choice of shower or bath on booking — giving them the choice of going elsewhere if shower only is not acceptable. Research has shown that shower only is unacceptable to over 30% of all guests and less acceptable still to the wealthy older cohort. That they have the choice on a train is a delight.
Unlike many hotels the train is able to offer a smoking lounge, up front, behind the engines, but this is the only area of the train where smoking is permitted — and the Chinese tourists took advantage of it, booking the closest cabins. The restaurant car was in the centre of the train, and immediately behind it was another, non-smoking saloon bar. After more cabins the last carriage was an observation car offering 360o views of the landscape traversed.
The advantage of train over plane or auto is of course the size of the windows. In the cabin each passenger could enjoy the view in comfort, many passengers locking open the carriage doors too, so that they could see clearly out of both side of the train. Riding gently in air-conditioned comfort in complete privacy enabled conversation about the passing views, face to face or side by side, interrupted only by the occasional service from the cabin butler or the call to eat and drink in the comfortable restaurant or bar car. Yet it was possible to go out and walk the train, to stretch and converse with other passengers, to be social in a way not possible in a plane or auto.
The gentle ride at a stately 55kph carried the rhythmic clunk over rail joints. Missing in rail traffic in Europe where tracks are welded rather than jointed, the rhythm was the only sound track as travel rolled the landscapes past gently. Many passengers had cameras permanently ready, and the television in each cabin, which could be used to watch videos or TV could also be tuned to an engine mounted camera to watch the track ahead.
Although the cabins were small at the evening meal the time was used to turn down and transform the cabin into a double bedroom – this functional change in effect doubling the cabin into a suite. The reverse process was achieved whilst breakfasting the following morning.
Sleeping on the train was far more comfortable than on a ship. It lacked that thumping juddering crash experienced when a ship hits a large wave, nor was it possible to hear the engines. The only sound was the rhythmic, gently soporific noise of iron on iron, the steady clunk setting a rhythm that lulled to a sleep only broken when silence came if the train stopped in one of the rail loops to allow for passing freight. Insulation was very good, so no sound from outside the cabin apart from the wheels on the rails, and the tv could be used to watch movies or, if one preferred, the view from the front of the train.
The restaurant car , beautifully appointed with marquetry and murals, brass and the gleam of polish, glistened with white linen and fine china. Service matched a good five star and the fare included all the food and drink one could hold. Yet still there were the views. Occasionally the disparity between the wealth in the train and the poverty still there in some townships would become evident as a signal caused an stop where passengers looking out became like zoo exhibits as people waiting on an adjacent platform looked in, but generally a smile and wave was the response from outside to a lifted glass within.
The train showcases views of the mountains, the Klein Karoo and the veldt, and stops to provide a view of one of the world’s largest holes, the diamond mine at Kimberly. No samples alas but for those with the money and needing the gleam , there is an exclusive shop on the train where diamonds and jewellery can be bought through personal appointment.
South Africa is changing, slowly, noticeable and with increasing momentum as education (sorely neglected by the arrogant and frequently corrupt ANC leaders) and economic growth improve the lot of the majority. I think South Africa is reasonably safe for tourism – take advice before you go. There are areas I avoid, and I get good local advice, but it is a good buy for Europeans and needs your tourist money to help the rainbow nation truly flower.
The beauty of the country is showcased through the windows of this train, as are the local standards of service through the charm and courtesy of the staff. Design harks back to an age when grace and pleasure in travel were key ingredients of the experience, when comfort was more important than style alone, and when customer experience ruled over the bean counters. Using the Blue Train really does show how it can be better to travel than to arrive.
Seaside towns have a look about them. The ocean close by obviously, but the kind of shops they have – a strange mix of sunhats surfboards and post cards mixed with high end retail to capture the spending of the wealthy second homers. So it is too with seaside accommodation, a mix of jolly B&B’s, engaging boutique style operations, the family resort hotels full of kids, sand and entertainment. Occasional the five stars hotels try to stand above the hubbub and offer a premium experience with high achieving restaurants and urban levels of service.
Plettenberg has all these ingredients complicated by the fact that some 80% of the houses are second homes. This means population can increase tenfold at a weekend, but the hotels bring a steady footfall of visitors all the year around. It has the range, the B&B’s resort hotel on the beach, the boutiques such as the Grand Café with Rooms, and the five star rated Plettenberg.
Main street Plettenberg sits just back from the top of the cliffs and the Plettenberg, the town’s main five star offering, sits off this main drag in a stunning cliff top location.The hotel has glorious unobstructed views across Plettenberg Bay. Like the location of the Marine in Hermanus, on Walker Bay, it offer the opportunity for whale watching (at the right time of year) from your hotel room.
Plettenberg is often regarded as the whale watching capital of the world. It is claimed as such on the South African Tourism website. Certainly this coast is the breeding ground for whales as I found on my visit to McGrath’s sister hotel, and both are on the Garden Route drive along the coast so offer more than this anxiety inducing binocular exercise. Although the whales when they are abundant come right under your bedroom window, timing is all, leaving those whose timing is wrong in desparate search of a plume like whalers of old.
The hotel is actually several buildings, the two main bocks facing each other across the end of the cul-de-sac that ends in the scrub on the cliff top. Both sides have pools, one side being suites the other containing the bars restaurants and bedrooms. The reception desk is immediately inside the door but the lobby is ‘see through’ so the arriving guest, welcomed by a porter, gets an eyeful not just of bar and restaurant but also the vista stretching around the bay beyond.
In 2011 the Western Cape had a poor tourist year. The previous year had been dominated by the World Cup but 2011 saw the region catching the backlash from the European and US recessions. the normal numbers of tourists from the UK diminished as did the flow, previously growing, of visitors from the USA. Overall numbers were down by over 40%. Recovery is underway, but the knock to the cash-flow had put back the refurbishment of the bedrooms that I had hoped to see. So how did this third McGrath hotel measure up against my high expectations, expectations created by the high quality of the Marine and that other gem, the Cellars Hohenort in the Cape Town suburb of Constantia?
The public areas mostly matched those expectations, and whilst they exceeded them in some areas, some were laden with tradition to the point of extinction. The bedrooms, whilst becoming dated, are still stylish and very comfortable. As with many hotels these days though the overuse of scented cleaning materials causes problems for those sensitive to artificial odours. This is not the first hotel, and I’m sure won’t be the last, where here appears to be a misguided belief that using heavily scented items enhances the offering. In a seaside hotel it is the scent of the sea the guest wants, surely? Leaving aside the grumble, the bedrooms are chic – not shabby, but with an old fashioned charm.
Like all McGraths hotels they are beautifully finished and as sophisticated as one would expect from one of the premier Relais & Chateau operators in South Africa. There are two bedroom buildings plus a house that is a fully serviced holiday apartment with its own pool.
There is a small Spa area beneath it with a thriving local trade in several treatment and beauty rooms. The main block of bedrooms are above the main dining area and infinity pool, whilst the second block, on the opposite side of the road, holds the suites with their own infinity pool and sun lounge.
The views from the second building are if anything more stunning than those from the first as it has views both ways along the coast. It has its own grand entrance and entrance staircase, coolly stylish, whilst the sun lounge provides a quiet retreat both for those wanting separation from the main hotels and for those from the pool to retire to, escaping perhaps from the wind and the occasional squall.
Differentiation between the suites and the standard rooms is difficult as both have separate living room areas. The suites are much larger, but both are large by European standards anyway, certainly comparable in scale to the rooms in the Rocco Forte Charles in Munich, which average 42m² compared to a typical UK five star of 33m². It is the style of the case goods as much as anything which dates these rooms, fabrics and soft furnishing generally looking fresh and quite contemporary.
Having seen the newer contemporary rooms installed at the Cellars Hohenort, McGrath’s hotel in the Cape Town suburb of Constantia, I know the design potentials of this group, so just maybe I have an excuse to come back another time.
You see my expectations may have been high but this hotel more than met them. The quality of the service and the design of the public areas was again superb. Agreed there are some parts of the public areas that like the bedrooms are a little dated but the design of the bar and restaurant show what can be achieved. Elements of the bar echo those deployed at the Marine in Hermanus, but a house look is no bad thing if it is stylish and temporised by location, as this one is.
You see my expectations may have been high but this hotel more than met them. The quality of the service and the design of the public areas was again superb. Agreed there are some parts of the public areas that like the bedrooms are a little dated but the design of the bar and restaurant show what can be achieved. Elements of the bar echo those deployed at the Marine in Hermanus, but a house look is no bad thing if it is stylish and temporized by location, as this one is. The bar is front lit and whilst it is visible from the reception desk it has private areas for drinkers as well as a large lounge in front. It is adjacent to the restaurant so allows wine service from the bar station and ready access to the cellar. It is also then easy to maintain a drinks service to the terrace all day, including of course a champagne breakfast if required.
The adjacent restaurant is a modern glass cube built into an angle of the building leaving a wide terrace to the infinity pool for diners. As an addition its not problem free, and steps down from the lounge can take an unwary guest into the edge of umbrellas. It is inevitable that there will be areas where old and new don’t quite mesh perfectly, but here as at the other two McGrath hotels the addition is generally managed well by the in-house design team.
Across the group there is a mix of styles in bedrooms with the best being at what I regard as the flagship property, the Cellars Hohenort. Here bedrooms were scheduled to start their refurbishment programme in May 2012, shortly after my visit. However old the schemes may be much of what is there is more than just acceptable. Rooms are large and intelligent design at the outset has given them a longevity not matched by other hotels. However they will need to stretch to match the new rooms coming on stream at hotels such as the Twelve Apostles or POD in Camps Bay both of which are seaside hotels, although without the commanding position of the Plettenberg, both recently refurbished or newly built.
Bathrooms have baths and showers in most, and again are large, so these are less evidently dated than the bedrooms are. They set a standard that is evidently five star, and one which many European hotels flinch from. Despite the operator identifying the need to upgrade the hotel remains very popular because no-one needs to upgrade its strongest selling point, which is its position. Few other hotels have a view of the sea, whether full of whales or not, like the Plettenberg, and the best of these is probably the previously mentioned McGrath hotel, the Marine in Hermanus.
For many years under Liz McGrath’s leadership these Relais & Chateau branded hotels have provided a benchmark for other hotels in the Republic to measure themselves against. The current world slump has held back the refurbishment programmes that would help to keep them there in the increasingly competitive South African market. Despite this, sun sea and whales which have given Plettenberg its existence, will continue to provide a raison d’etre, and reason for the group to continue the investment it has made over the years
I look forward to returning in the future to see the new rooms, and to update you, kind reader…
Whilst football is often said to be a game of two halves, Chapmans Peak hotel, known popularly locally simply as ‘Chappies’, is a hotel of two halves. On the left is the original pub much changed since it was built in 1903, whilst on the right is the new four star bedroom extension complete with suites, balconied bedrooms and the most amazing views across Hout Bay. When in Cape Town I stay in Hout Bay and it was then I was taken to the Chapmans Peak hotel as the best place to eat in the area.
My companions were being guided to their table on the large and busy outdoor terrace dining area when I spied a bright red spot of colour inside the hotel. “Aha!” I thought, “someone with a sense of style” and wandered off to look (always curious you see).
A single flower on a table in the centre of a space reminded me in a way of the entrance to the Hempel in London where the same flower was used in serried ranks to create impact. Here simplicity won the eye, and sparked further my curiosity. It was a good half hour later that I rejoined my hosts at their table. Ooops!
From there I became involved, gave advice and tracked the development of the hotel over the following couple of years. Chapmans has been in the same family for years, along with a neighbouring wine distribution service. It is a popular bistro/pub with a menu focussed on local, especially seafood, products. In an elevated position it has a spectacular view across Hout Bay, and stands at the bottom of the road that clings to the cliffs as it winds away around the end of Africa towards the Simonstown naval base.
Originally built in 1903, some of the original building remains evident in fireplaces and lounges – fireplaces that are necessary in the South African winter months when rain clouds can hug the coast – apparently Cape Town only has 60 days a year without a sea mist or cloud cover for some of the time. Hout Bay is a corruption of Houtbaaii, meaning ‘bay of wood’ as in the 18th century this is where much shipbuilding took place using local timber.
A new entrance and underground secure car parking were created as a part of the new construction, organised and overseen by the owner. The rock face against which the hotel sits was incorporated into the new entrance lobby with the front a simple glass screen cut into the rock wall. With two levels coming into the lobby from the garage and the street entrance along with the linking to the previously existing building this is a complex space well handled by the architects. Lit with locally manufactured chandeliers it is contemporary but not in conflict with the previous reception lobby.
The transition from modern to antique is accomplished smoothly, in part eased by the different dates of the various parts of the previously existing 10 bedrooms and meeting rooms. The addition of the two suites and 22 new luxurious and spacious new bedrooms, all with balconies, has transformed the pub into an hotel. The owners recognise this and will continue to refurbish the dining areas, which currently seat over a hundred comfortably, on a large covered terrace in the summer or in front of open fires in winter.
Like the Alma in Wandsworth this transition is based on a very healthy income from the food and beverage operation, making the economics of expansion relatively straightforward to calculate. In expanding the bedroom operation, again similar to the Alma, the standard of the whole operation has lifted. The friendliness and welcome, previously a recognised part of the operation, hasn’t changed though and the staff obviously enjoy the new range of facilities and guests but continue to work with personality and enthusiasm. Some have been at the hotel for many years and plainly feel they ‘belong’.
The style of the restaurant and bars is traditional with white linen and china providing a sparkling contrast to timber. For ten months of the year diners will prefer the outside terrace with its views over the bay, but in the winter mornings breakfast is served in front of open fires in the restaurant. In winter months dinner too is a candle lit convivial affair in front of open fires.
The old main entrance to the hotel has become a restaurant and bar entrance with the new reception having an off road pull-in. Parking was always a problem at Chappies, and the new provision is welcome. The old bedrooms have their own charm as does their balcony but the new rooms and suites are a huge step forward for the hotel. The two rooftop suites have deep private balconies with external showers, lounges with their own fireplaces etc.
The new bedrooms all have balconies, with those on the back of the hotel looking out onto the overgrown cliff face. Those at the front have the beach views but also the road, so the guest can balance quietness versus the view. Most rooms have luxury bathrooms with double wash hand basins, walk in showers as well as soaking tubs. The old rooms have a character and charm that comes with age, but all have en suite bath or shower rooms. The new rooms are larger. They have the classic arrangement with the bathroom helping to insulate the room aurally from the corridor. The lobby has the wardrobe in and in this sense the rooms are completely conventional. However they are longer than usual, giving room for the bathrooms to be large, with separate toilet, walk-in shower and bathtubs. In some rooms the tubs are enclose by shutters that can be opened so that it is possible to lounge in a bath whilst watching the sunset over the bay.
Lounge areas are generous and expanded by the practical balconies which also have their own table and chairs from which to enjoy a view that can encompass seals, a pod of porpoises and the boat traffic into the fishing harbour and marina on the other side of the bay.
Hard flooring and airconditioning make the rooms cool and the glazed end wall leaves the views can be enjoyed unobstructed. Furnishing is styllish and teh use of natural timber finishes chimes with the older parts of the hotel as well as the local styles
Whilst a 15 minute drive from central Cape Town, Chapmans Peak Hotel offers a unique blend of history, style and location that offer an informal alternative to the likes of the 12 Apostles or even the lovely Cellars Hohenort.
The boy was nervous, shining his torch carefully into the shadows, walking slowly so we were treading on his heels. The man with the rifle was alert, holding his weapon across his body, finger on the trigger guard. Was this a piece of hotel theatre staged for effect? We were walking back to our room after dinner, and were not allowed to leave the restaurant until our escort was in place.
Ongava Lodge is constructed on a small hill in the 323km² (125mile²) Ongava Game Reserve, a private reserve just outside the main gate of the Etosha National Park in Namibia. The National Park’s original 100,000 km² (38,500mile²) made it the largest game reserve in the world when created. The aim was to stem the rapid depletion of wildlife in the area, and protect the land through which the seasonal migrations passed. Then, just as a nature conservation unit and several tourist camps were set up, the reserves were redefined and Etosha shrank to its present size covering an area of more than 22 750km² (8,750mile²).
The addition of the private parks, many of which abutt each other and Etosha, has extended the range of protected territory as well as that of the predators. A ribbon of such reserves now stretches down through Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast to the Sossusvlei, the Namibian Sand Sea. The Lodges are all connected by dirt tracks and the areas own bush airline Sefofane.
So is the escort a piece of theatre by the Lodge to see guest safely back to their rooms? The second night, after a long working day, I decided to go back to our room early, long before dusk, and sit quietly on the balcony with a bottle of chilled white wine and watch the vault of heaven light up with the myriad upside down constellations of the African sky.
As we settled into our wicker chairs, wrapping ourselves in the provided blankets against the chill night air, a black backed jackal walked past a hundred or so metres away – followed by two lionesses and a lion, all on their way to the Lodge water hole. ‘Red in tooth and claw’, such wildlife is why tourism is growing – and why operators take every precaution to ensure the safety of their guests. As our guide said “we haven’t had anyone eaten this year…yet.”
The embrace of nature is a part of the philosophy of Wilderness Group who use the out of season times to provide experience of the game parks to children from African cities through their Wilderness Trust. They have lit enthusiasms, then paid for development and education both for individuals and whole communities. Now many have done this but uniquely Wilderness funds their activities, on over 60 sites across Africa, with luxury hospitality developments (see Little Kulala and Damaraland for other examples).
The luxury wraps around the guests at Ongava sometimes striking a slightly discordant note, such as when one can watch rhinoceros or giraffe at the waterhole whilst sipping an iced gin-and-tonic at the bar. The co