The landmark Mount Grace Hotel and Spa in the Magaliesburg is scheduled to reopen its doors on Wednesday, September 9, and re-employ many of the workers who lost their jobs.
This follows the JSE-listed Tsogo Sun Hotels taking over management of the hotel from US-based Marriott International, which decided to terminate its agreement with the hotel's owner Hospitality Property Fund (HPF) in June in the wake of the Covid-19 economic fallout.
Mount Grace was one of three HPF hotels Marriott off loaded, the others being the Edward Hotel in Durban and an establishment in Hazyview, Mpumalanga.
Marriott International, which acquired the Protea Hotel chain in a R2 billion deal in 2014, did not reveal how many jobs would be cut as a result of the exit from managing the properties.
Job loss fears allayed
Marriott's announcement raised fears that the hotels would be permanently closed, but Tsogo Sun Hotels – which manages more than 100 hotels across South Africa and owns a majority stake in JSE-listed HPF – has stepped in and is keeping its promise to reopen them.
Tsogo Sun Hotels CEO Marcel von Aulock told Moneyweb that Mount Grace will reopen this week, together with other five-star properties in the group including the Arabella Hotel in Hermanus and the Palazzo Hotel at Montecasino in Fourways.
"Following the relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to Level 2, which allows for inter-provincial travel, we have now opened or are planning to reopen more of our hotels. Currently around 35 of the group's hotels are operating, including the Sandton Sun, Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town and Southern Sun at Montecasino, among others."
He added that the group opted to reopen the Mount Grace as it believes the property will benefit from the pent-up demand for local leisure travel, especially from Gauteng travellers.
"We have taken over management of the property and anticipate employing most of its 110 staff as demand picks up."
Hi please help find work. Former employee at Mount grace hotel. (chef departe) I'm looking for work in hotels. Speciality in Banqueting and Alcarte. Please retweet or recommend places hiring. Thank you 🙏— Zuziwe Mkhize (@MkhizeZuziwe) August 17, 2020
He said the group would operate the hotel under its existing name, as is the case with its 54 on Bath hotel in Rosebank.
"Tsogo Sun Hotels has similar plans for the historic Edward Hotel on Durban's beachfront and [the] former Protea Hotel Hazyview, which we will now manage and plan to reopen by November and December respectively," he added.
News of the reopening is surely a welcome development for many of the affected workers as well as local tourism bodies, which feared that Marriott's exit could see the three hotels close for good.
Von Aulock said Tsogo Sun has seen an increase in demand and bookings following the relaxation of lockdown regulations to Level 2.
"We are more optimistic than we were a month ago – with, for example, our Beverly Hill Hotel being virtually fully booked for the last four weekends. However, most of our hotels still remain closed. We will continue the phased reopening of our properties over the next few months."