Bosses at Durban’s Royal Hotel have dismissed rumours of the hotel’s decline, saying the historic venue is as strong as ever. Matthew Savides reports.
WALKING into the foyer of the Royal Hotel still evokes feelings of, well, royalty. Tuxedo-clad doormen await the arrival of guests, and the artwork and design are as impressive as the building is historic.
A more recent sight, though, is that of construction workers, lifted carpets and bits of rubble and dust in certain areas – as the hotel undergoes a R40 million revamp that, according to hotel bosses, will improve the facilities and make it more relevant.
Rumours of the hotel’s decline, especially the closure of the Top of the Royal restaurant and apparent delays in the re-opening of the Royal Grill, circulated recently.
There were also concerns that the hotel was struggling with a lack of leadership after the departure of key senior staff.
However, Michael Lambert, CEO of the Three Cities Group, which manages the hotel, said these reports were “the furthest thing from the truth that I’ve heard in a long time”.
“It has been quite the opposite, actually (to the rumoured decline). We’ve had a tremendous year,” he said.
He admitted that guest numbers were down about 12 percent from last year, but that this was “the same, if not better” than for the group’s other hotels and some of their competitors.
“Durban is still a popular destination, and the Royal is still a very popular hotel.”
He added the departure of senior staff, including former general manager Alan Vels, had not had a negative impact on the business.
“We had no fallout from any clients. There was one client who did not renew a contract, but that one was coming to an end.
“We have a very experienced and strong team at the hotel, and we are satisfied with the team we have.”
Lambert took the Sunday Tribune on a tour of the hotel and the areas being revamped, starting at the ground-level Royal Grill.
The room is virtually empty at present, with all the antique furniture moved out as workmen complete the design.
According to Lambert, the Royal Grill will be completed by December, in time for the holiday season.