Despite welcoming government’s extension of the Level 3 curfew to 10pm and the easing of restrictions around leisure travel within a province, JSE-listed casino and hospitality major Sun International confirmed on Monday that its landmark Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town and Sun City resort in the North West will remained closed.
Speaking to Moneyweb, Sun International chief operating officer Graham Wood said the group has decided to keep the entire Sun City resort, as well as its standalone hotels like the five-star Table Bay Hotel at the V&A Waterfront and the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, closed.
“Of our 12 casinos across South Africa, 11 have reopened since July, except for Sun City. With the relaxation of restrictions to now allow for leisure travel within a province, we will now start reopening our hotels located within our casinos,” he noted.
“Sun City, including The Palace of the Lost City, the Valley of the Waves, and all the hotels within the resort, however, will remain closed until inter-provincial travel is allowed. With most of Sun City’s business coming from Gauteng and other out-of-town visitors, including international tourists, the gaming and leisure market in Rustenburg in the North West is not big enough to justify the reopening of Sun City,” he said.
Sun International directly employs around 2300 staff at the expansive resort, while other service provides at Sun City, such as independently run restaurants, employ between 800 to 1000 additional staff. The resort is currently operating on “skeleton staff” as it remains closed.
“We also won’t be opening The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town or The Maslow Hotel in Sandton while inter-provincial and international travel is banned. It doesn’t make financial sense.… There is not enough demand to justify these hotels reopening just yet,” added Wood.
Traditionally around 80% of the Table Bay’s clientele are international tourists. The four-star Maslow mainly caters for business travellers and conferencing.
Wood said that corporate travel, even into South Africa’s financial hub of Sandton, is “still too low” for The Maslow to reopen. He said that although the Table Bay mainly caters for international tourists, Sun International would consider reopening the hotel once inter-provincial travel is allowed.
“We are now planning for recovery mode,” he said. “The announcement from the tourism ministry regarding the lifting of intra-provincial [within a province] travel restrictions is another step in the right direction. We welcome this move, together with the extension of the curfew from 9pm to 10pm, as most of our casino trade traditionally takes place at night.”
He added: “While there has been no official announcement regarding when inter-provincial travel will be allowed, as an industry we continue to state our case through the Tourism Business Council of SA. As Sun International, we are hoping that inter-provincial travel [between provinces] is allowed before the end of September, while international travel is opened up before the end of the year.”
Wood stressed that Sun International has extensive health and safety protocols related to Covid-19 in place. “We are ready to reopen most of our casino hotels and are confident that we can more than meet the government’s safety standards.”
Marcel von Aulock, CEO of Tsogo Sun Hotels, believes that it is “still too early to open many more hotels”. Only around 30 of its more than 100 hotels across South Africa are currently operating.
“Besides low demand due to travel restrictions, the alcohol ban also does not help… However, the hotels that are open are now accepting leisure guests [from within their provinces]. We have opened one or two of the smaller hotels connected to the casinos, like Silverstar and Gold Reef City and I think we’ll open Caledon in the Western Cape for weekends,” he said.