A new hotel management company has emerged in South Africa, headed up by Managing Director Siyanda Dlamini. Together with Key Spirit Development, the group has opened its first hotel, The Regency Apartment Hotel in Menlyn, Pretoria, north of Johannesburg. Dlamini and Key Spirit Development have big plans to open further hotels around South Africa, so Business Traveller Africa took the opportunity to learn more about the group and Dlamini’s vision for it.
Q: Please provide a brief summary of your background in the hospitality industry.
A: I started as an in-service trainee at Protea Hotels in 2001. From there, I grew my career within Protea Hotels, working my way up from Food and Beverage Manager at The President Hotel to Rooms Division Manager at African Pride Crystal Towers, to General Manager at various hotels, before holding a Sales Director role at Fortis Hotels.
Q: What made you go on your own and set up your own management company?
A: The lack of transformation within the hospitality industry was a key driver and I decided to create the change that I wanted to see. I am passionate about social inclusion, youth development and upskilling, and I feel that this really inspired me to go my own way. The Regency Apartment Hotel has provided the means to create a space within which we could offer on-the-job training to the youth coming up through the ranks of hospitality. I wanted to empower young leaders within the industry by strategically placing them into roles where they can grow and advance their careers. Owning my own hotel was really the only way to provide this.
Q: What are your thoughts on the state of the South African hotel industry?
A: There is good revenue within the South African hotel industry with room for growth, particularly within outlying areas. For example, in some parts of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, there is major demand for quality hotels. There are several provincial government departments, mines and many
corporates with very little quality supply. Tapping into this would not only benefit hoteliers, but the communities too, by driving business tourism and employment.
Q: What are the most topical issues in the industry and what are you doing to address these issues with your management company?
A: Being a hospitality startup and not being known in the market as a brand comes with many issues and challenges, some of which are not directly related to the hotel industry, but towards developing businesses in South Africa as a whole. As we are involved in the process of building our hotels, we face zoning issues from the municipality. When we were building in Menlyn, these resulted in major delays during the construction process. Similarly, we faced delays in the approval of our liquor licence. The VAT registration process was also a challenge, which led to the loss of business when we initially started. Sometimes it means that the processes take that much longer to complete and there are small knocks along the way, but it does get done. As a new brand, we've had to put into play awareness sales activations and campaigns that we are aggressively rolling out in order to build that brand credibility.
Q: What was attractive about the location of your first hotel property in Menlyn?
A: Location! Menlyn is the business hub of Pretoria. It was also the ultimate location for us, considering that we wanted to combine high-end apartment living within an apartment hotel set-up.
Q: Do you have any properties or management contracts in the pipeline?
A: I am unable to divulge too much detail on this at this stage. However, we are working on three properties, with another property coming up in the Menlyn area. We plan to break ground from January 2019.
Q: Do you have an overall view on the African hotel development space and sustained activity of the international groups versus what is being done by the African groups?
A: I have not had much exposure to the African hotel development space. However, from my personal travels I have found that our hotels in South Africa are on par when it comes to international standards and trends, if not better in some instances.
Q: How do you plan to use technology to strengthen the offering of your hotel(s)?
A: Online check-in and check-out, online restaurant reservations, and an online food ordering system.
Q: What do you think the business traveller is looking for from his or her hotel?
A: Uncapped high-speed wi-fi, a superior quality bed, a work desk, plug points in strategic locations, and a good selection of TV channels.
Q: Where would you like to see The Regency Hotel Group in 10 years’ time?
A: Ideally, we would like to open one hotel a year, which would mean another nine hotels by 2028. ■