KwaZulu-Natal tipped to get Club Med resort
KwaZulu-Natal’s burgeoning North Coast is on the cusp of securing a luxurious Club Med beach resort as part of Tongaat Hulett’s ambitious new mixed-use resort town development at Tinley Manor, north of Ballito.
The resort is being planned on the secluded southern side of the Umhlali River, on prime land currently home to fields of sugar cane. It has direct beach access and overlooks the Indian Ocean. JSE-listed sugar, agro-processing and property giant Tongaat Hulett owns the land and is driving the development, with the support of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.
While Tongaat Hulett has been mum about Club Med’s involvement, it is understood that plans for the large-scale beach resort are at an advanced stage, with Club Med being drawn into the design process.
The French-based luxury resort group has been eyeing the North Coast to set up a beach resort for more than a decade.
In fact, Club Med wanted to have a resort open before the 2010 World Cup, but envisaged beach sites at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and other locations closer to Ballito and Durban have faced environmental and planning bottlenecks.
Ostensibly dubbed Club Med Tinley, the resort would be the first Club Med in Southern Africa.
Several sources in provincial business circles and local government confirmed that Tongaat Hulett was in talks with Club Med but said they could not comment officially on the French group’s involvement.
Economic development and tourism MEC Sihle Zikalala punted the Tinley Manor beach resort project at Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban in May, without mentioning Club Med.
Zikalala listed the resort as one of several major catalytic economic tourism projects planned in the province over the next few years.
“Among the major tourism infrastructure projects in the pipeline are beach resorts and hotels, including Tinley Manor Beach Resort, valued at R1.2bn, and Blythedale Coastal Resort, valued at R350m, both of which are on the North Coast,” he said. “In Durban alone, tourism infrastructure projects to the tune of more than R50bn have been planned. This includes the major facelift to the Point Waterfront, which is valued at some R40bn,” he said.
Tongaat Hulett said on Thursday that Club Med was one of four international resort operators that had expressed an interest in Tinley.
The group said, however, that no formal binding agreements had been signed.
“We have not yet secured an investor to develop the resort and are currently in the process of soliciting interest.
“We can only formally secure both an operator and an investor once rights approvals are in place. These applications are currently under way at Tinley,” the company said.
“Given its connectivity and natural assets, the region is increasingly being identified by global resort and tour operators as South Africa’s foremost opportunity to compete with other global beach resort destinations,” it said.
“Tinley has solicited the interest of four significant international resort operators.. Tongaat Hulett Developments are in the process of pursuing the development investment through an internationally recognised property advisory firm, JLL,” it said.
In its latest financial results, Tongaat Hulett said that the recent environmental approval for the Tinley Manor project was an important new opportunity for the group.
It said it had already sold a 28ha site, and sales negotiations had commenced for 66ha, including 20ha for an “internationally branded coastal resort, the first of its kind in SA”.
However, in its response, Tongaat Hulett said the 28ha site that was sold in Tinley South had not been sold to Club Med.
Meanwhile, details on the Club Med Tinley resort project have appeared on JLL’s website, but have since been locked.
It was stated on JLL’s site that the development would be the flagship resort in SA, with about 400 rooms and suites.
“Club Med has a village network of over 65 destinations worldwide and are now looking to expand into Southern Africa. This resort will set itself apart as being the leading international standard beach resort in SA.
“The KwaZulu-Natal coastline is ideal for a resort of this nature with its rolling hills, untouched beaches and warm seas,” according to the JLL site.
It was further stated that the resort would have expansive leisure facilities. These would include a Club Med Spa, Kids Clubs and pools, a village restaurant, a gourmet restaurant and separate pool for adults, an outdoor dinning area, a convention centre and various water-based sport and multisport facilities.
The plans indicate that Tongaat Hulett is looking to establish a full-scale beach resort, which Club Med is noted for developing in some of the most famed beach destinations around the world, such as Bali, Phuket and the Caribbean.
Phindile Makwakwa, acting CEO of Tourism KZN, said that while she could not comment specifically on Club Med, the province was working with Tongaat Hulett and other property players to lure investors and international resort operators to the province.
“Beach resorts have been identified in the KZN Tourism master plan as part of a list of major catalytic tourism infrastructure projects, to grow international tourism to the province and SA,” she said.
“It’s a huge gap in the [South African] market that international tour operators from Europe and the US have been telling us [about] for years.
“Plans seem to be coming together now and we believe this will be a game-changer that will put KwaZulu-Natal on the international tourism map.”