Marriott’s takeover of Protea seems to have been preceded by a frenzy of refurbishment. Maybe owners, faced with the the threat of being expelled from the chain, were scared into committing money. Maybe the fear of being left on the side-lines when the global booking engine that is Marriott came into play drove them to put hand in their pockets. Whatever the driver, all the Proteas I looked at on this year’s trip to South Africa had been refurbished within the last year to eighteen months – some after being neglected for a long time.Owned by the local sardine factory people this hotel on South Africa’s West Coast was described to me by family who had used it since the 1990’s as ‘run-down’. On my visit it most certainly was not and it stands as another example of the constant push up-market by three star hotels. I remember as a designer working on supposed four star hotels on England’s South Coast that had none of the style (and certainly neither the views nor sunshine) that the Protea in Saldanha Bay enjoys. As an example of what Marriott have got for their money it shows what a great value buy the Protea chain makes.
Situated on a large natural harbour on South Africa’s west coast, Saldanha is the end of the line for ore trains and the bay has a constant queue of ore carriers waiting to take the iron ore from the 2 kilometre+ long freights. It also acts as a service centre for oil rigs and is on the transit routes for rigs moving between the North Sea and South East Asia. Did you know they moved those distances? I didn’t but their crews apparently take a week long break in Saldanha and provide some of the occupancy, often resulting the in the hotel booking out 50 of their 60 rooms for a week at a time.