Divergent views keep hotels top of the pile

Posted On Thursday, 04 July 2002 10:01 Published by
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Two landmark Umhlanga hotels have different approaches.

Specialist Writer

IT IS the tale of two landmark Umhlanga hotels the Oyster Box and the Beverly Hills, now called the Beverly Hills Sun Intercontinental and the divergent ways they chose to prosper in the 21st century.

Wayne Coetzer, GM of the oldworld Oyster Box, announced recently that the hotel, whose owner, Kathleen Hill, died two years ago, was no longer up for sale.

'A contract has been entered into between the owners of the Oyster Box site and Nedcor Investment Bank. The hotel will continue with its refurbishment programme to restore it to its original glory,' said Coetzer.

Customers who enjoy the colonial ambience of the Oyster Box can now invest in it and live on the property. Part of the revamp is to develop the site into a secure living estate including three luxury apartment buildings and the original hotel building.

The Oyster Box originated as a beach cottage in 1869. It has always been associated with the landmark lighthouse below it; its roof was used as a beacon for ships until the lighthouse was built in 1954.

Today the hotel is still the official warden of the lighthouse, with staff monitoring its controls from the hotel.

The O'Connor family bought Oyster Box Cottage in 1949 and the hotel opened five years later. When Kathleen Hill died, the hotel's fate was uncertain and there were rumours it would close.

The new estate development will offer walkways onto the beach and the latest security systems. There will be two, three and four-bedroom apartments and penthouses, each with garden and/or sea views. The locations are being offered to developers who will design and construct the apartments to a pre-determined plan, says Coetzer.

If the Beverly Hills Sun Intercontinental seems to have too many names, it is for a reason, says Southern Sun group executive director of sales and marketing, Richard Weilers. The name Beverly Hills carries the associations of the showcase hotel Sol Kerzner built and opened in 1964 in the sleepy village of Umhlanga the only five-star hotel in the Durban area at the time.

'Sun' links the hotel to the brand goodwill around the Southern Sun group, while Intercontinental is a leading five-star brand, said Weilers.

'We are the only member of the Intercontinental group allowed to keep our original branding. 'Sun' has a huge value in the domestic market,' he said. Southern Sun joined Intercontinental in 1995.

International travellers and the travel industry identify hotels by coding when doing electronic booking and the Inter-continental coding is prominent, said Weilers.

The hotel has retained its own brand image, however. It runs at exceptionally high occupancy, serving the domestic leisure market as well as a growing corporate market due to the Umhlanga Ridge corporate and shopping development.

Weilers said the group had invested R14m in the Beverly Hills since 1996, to keep it in line with its market profile.

Little had to be changed to transform it into an Intercontinental, as SA hotels conform well to international standards, he said.

Jul 03 2002 12:00:00:000AM Yvonne Fontyn Business Day 1st Edition

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Yvonne Fontyn

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