South African Perspective
Africa’s economic ‘super power’ is a nation at the edge of the world, and in the middle of everything
Africa’s economic‘super power’is a nation at the edge of the world, and in the middle of everything
Twenty years have passed since South Africa’s apartheid system was dismantled and Nelson Mandela led one of history’s most dramatic peaceful transitions of power.Yet the legacy of those years lingers on in the form of high unemployment and a vast wealth gap between rich and poor.
Still, South Africa remains one of the wealthiest countries on the continent, and among its most dynamic. Its vast mineral resources (it has some of the world’s largest gold, diamond, platinum and chromium deposits) have powered the economy for over a century.
South Africa accounts for a massive 40 percent of Africa’s industrial output and is by far the most sophisticated free-market economy in Africa. The abundant supply of mineral resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors, plus modern infrastructure, support an efficient distribution of goods to major urban areas throughout the entire region, thanks to its central location; it borders Namibia,
The capital of South Africa’s smallest province, Gauteng, is Johannesburg. This city is the economic powerhouse of Africa and beyond Joburg, as it’s called, advanced development is focused around four other
Durban, and Pretoria/Johannesburg.
South Africa has 10 international airports. The major one is O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg, which is the main gateway to South Africa. This state of the art airport has the capacity to handle up to 28 million passengers annually and provides connections to most regional airports from here. The airport is 14 miles east of Johannesburg and access to the city is quickest via the Gautrain, a modern rapid rail transport system that links the airport with Pretoria, Sandton, Rosebank and the city center.
For travelers coming through international arrivals, just make sure you keep right out of the exit doors and look for the Gautrain signs. Purchasing a card is straightforward and will cost you R13 (just over $1). Thereafter, it’ll cost you in the neighborhood of R135 to R155 ($12 - $14) for each leg to and from Sandton.
Cape Town airport also services direct regional and international routes and Durban offers direct flights to
recommended that travelers check in at least one hour before a domestic flight and two to three hours before regional/ international departures.
There are a number of airline-specific Business Class lounges, particularly at O.R. Tambo International. South African Airways actually has two international lounges and one domestic at ORTIA, two domestic lounges in Cape Town and one in Durban.
…Or Staying Put
As you would expect, South Africa’s urban centers can claim a host of international hotel brands. In Johannesburg, a fair number of them cluster in the main business district of Sandton, which is approximately 20 minutes from the central business district and about half an hour from ORTIA.
There’s a Hilton property in Sandton, and the group also has hotels in Durban (adjacent to the city’s main convention center) and Cape Town (smaller, with a boutique-type feel).
Also in Sandton are two Radisson Blu hotels, including the Radisson Blu Gautrain, which is ideally positioned opposite the local Gautrain station. There’s also a Park Inn by Radisson in Sandton,
presence in this business-focused area of Johannesburg.
Another international group with a presence in Johannesburg is Accor, through its midscale Mercure brand. They have three properties, but none in Sandton. Instead, they’ve focused elsewhere. There’s the Bedfordview hotel to the east of the city, the Midrand hotel
between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the Randburg property in the West Rand market.
InterContinental Hotels Group has Johannesburg Sandton Towers and the O.R. Tambo Airport hotel. Additionally, IHG’s Holiday Inn brand has three properties in Johannesburg, in Rosebank, Rivonia Road (Sandton) and Woodmead.
Speaking of the airport, the general area around it is dotted with hotels across the star range, and but a short drive away is the Peermont offering, the 5-star D’Oreale Grande at Emperors Palace, which is also home to the group’s 4-star Mondior, 3-star Metcourt and 3-star Metcourt Suites properties.
In the same Kempton Park area is arguably the country’s biggest conference offering, the Birchwood Hotel & O.R. Tambo Conference Centre. That hotel’s sister property, the 4-star Soweto Hotel is situated in the historic area on the other side of Johannesburg.
Among local hotel brands, it’s significant that Sun International now has a‘business hotel’presence in Johannesburg – more specifically Sandton – with The Maslow. The previously leisure-focused group plans to roll out this business hotel brand with other properties across the continent.
One of Sun International’s standout properties is the Table Bay in Cape Town, which consistently receives rave reviews, while Durban features the group’s Sibaya property.
The other major local brands, Protea Hotels, Tsogo Sun Hotels and City Lodge, are the groups with a big presence, as is Legacy Hotels & Resorts, which is strong in the Sandton area.
The big news this year for Protea Hospitality Group, based in Cape Town, was the completion in April of its acquisition by Marriott International. The addition of Protea’s 116 properties elevates Marriott to the largest hotel company in Africa. The Protea portfolio includes 79 hotels in South Africa, plus 37 properties
Uganda and Zambia.
Protea Hotels has 10 properties in and around Johannesburg, including two at O.R. Tambo International Airport. But should you be doing business in the area,
Rosebank, Sandton or the CBD, the hotels that stand out are the two Melrose Arch properties. In Cape Town, Protea also has its boutique Fire & Ice! property and two standout African Pride hotels – 15 On Orange and the Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa.
Tsogo Sun has 22 properties in the greater Gauteng area, which includes three in the Montecasino entertainment complex to the north of Johannesburg, with the
Then there’s the three hotels at the airport (InterContinental, Southern Sun, Garden Court) and six in and around the Sandton node and nexus.
Tsogo Sun now has a presence in Rosebank, with the luxurious 54 on Bath, which was previously The Grace. Tsogo Sun also has two budget brands, StayEasy and SUN1, which was a rebranding of their Formula 1 hotels.
The City Lodge Hotel Group consists of 1-star Road Lodges, 2-star Town Lodges, 3-star City Lodges and 4-star Courtyard Hotels. The group has 53 properties across South Africa, including 16 in Johannesburg and seven in Cape Town.
Legacy Hotels & Resorts’footprint in the Sandton area includes the 5-star Michelangelo, DAVINCI Hotel & Suites, Michelangelo Towers, and Raphael Penthouse Suites. These are suited to the premium business traveler who wants to be in the heart of Sandton. The group’s other two Johannesburg properties are the Sunnyside Park Hotel and the Airport Grand Hotel.
There are two good Legacy options in Cape Town; both the Commodore and the PortsWood are in close proximity to the V&A Waterfront and boast outstanding views of Table Mountain. From a boutique hotel perspective, t two properties stand out – the Saxon and Fairlawns – both situated within a few minutes’drive of Sandton City, either side of it. The Saxon is arguably the premier boutique hotel in Johannesburg and possibly South Africa, and is where the late Nelson Mandela wrote his memoirs.
Just a short drive up the road, opposite the Johannesburg Zoo, the newly reflagged Four Seasons Westcliff, which boasts possibly the best view in the city from its elevated terrace, is finishing up its renovations and is taking reservations for stays beginning Dec. 1.
A notch or two down the star scale, Faircity has three properties – all in the three and 4-star range, with one in the Johannesburg CBD and two in Sandton –
The Rosebank neighborhood, about a 10-minute drive from Sandton, has a good selection of quality hotels, with the Hyatt Regency, the Holiday Inn, the Courtyard, 54 on Bath, Mantis Collection’s Monarch Hotel (which underwent renovation in
The Rosebank, and the Clico Boutique Hotel, which has a warm and intimate conferencing setting.
Things You Need to Know
Visas: Most African travelers do not require a visa to visit South Africa for a stay of 30 to 90 days. Note that visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, so travelers requiring visas should apply for these before arrival. Travelers arriving from yellow fever-endemic areas will require a yellow fever certificate.
Connectivity: South Africa has an exceptionally well-developed communications infrastructure. Internet and WiFi are easily accessible and the extensive GSM network is on the same frequency as the rest of Africa and Europe. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom; MTN; Cell-C; Virgin Mobile and 8ta.
SIM card pre-paid starter kits are available for around R1.You will need a passport and a proof of residential address, and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls.
Health: There are no major diseases to guard against. Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but always check with the game reserves you are planning to visit and take precautions if necessary. There are many world class private hospitals and medical centers around the country, especially in the urban centers.
The Experience: Safety is still an issue here, particularly in Johannesburg, and visitors to South Africa should be aware of the country’s high crime rate. South African authorities do give high priority to the protection of tourists, and popular tourist sites and the main hotel areas tend to be safe and most visits are trouble-free. BT
Above: South Africa Right: Nelson Mandela Square; South Africa wild life; Gandhi Square in Johannesburg