A new era in hotel management

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Q: What exactly is African Hotels and Adventures (AHA) and where did it all start?

A: Tourvest purchased Relais Hotels approximately 4 years ago and has since been handling the sales and marketing for these properties. Upon buying out our minority partner 18 months ago it was decided that we needed to change the name from Relais to a brand that would be synonymous with our new objectives. It is important that each hotel is seen as an individual property, so whilst they fall into the African Hotels and Adventures group banner, they retain their unique identity.

Q: So you won’t find the AHA brand at the hotels?

A: No, you will only find the hotel’s individual name across all of its amenities. We are actually debranding our hotels, and in this way they will keep their own character. There is no common name or identity at our hotels. However, we pride ourselves of their common quality standard of four or five star with our associated quality service.

Q: When do you expect to have the whole ‘debranding’ exercise completed by?

A: By March next year it will be applied right throughout our properties.

Q: Has AHA got a new approach to sales and marketing?

A: Yes, we have split sales into three pillars within AHA, namely City Hotels, Lodges, and Lifestyle Retreats. The City Hotels profile comprises four-star hotels in primary cities within Africa, i.e. the metropolitan areas ofSouth Africaand the capital cities inAfrica. The sales force will focus on selling city hotel rooms mostly to corporate clients. The Lodges portfolio includes game viewing or cultural experiences providing accommodation. We have employed people who have a passion for the bush as this is more of an experience sell. Then, we were left with the other hotels and accommodation providers who don’t fall into the abovementioned categories, so we developed the Lifestyle Retreats pillar which comprises resorts like Casa Do Sol and hotels like L’ermitage. These properties are basically places where people go to relax. Additionally, these venues are ideally located and structured to also accommodate the conference market.

Our vision in future is to grow each of the pillars so that they will become self-sustaining businesses on their own. Our E-res system, however, centralises all these pillars. All the back office and support processes are centralised.

Q: How many hotels do you currently have in the AHA portfolio?

A: There are 12 in total, including the lodges inKenyaandTanzania. We are aiming to have 25 hotels in the portfolio by August 2012.

Q: What do the hotels in the City Hotels portfolio offer the corporate traveller?

A: The room size is bigger than your standard corporate room. Most of the hotels offer self-catering facilities, which are great for longer stays. Other facilities and services include Wi-Fi/Internet connectivity and ease of access. Each hotel is different and unique and provides the real boutique offering with a secure home-away-from-home service.

Q: Are you looking at any specific areas for expansion?

A: We currently have city hotels inCape Town, but we need to acquire a profile in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. We also need properties in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in the North Coast region around the new airport. Once this is established we plan to move into the rest of Africa. The first major areas we are hoping to get into includeLagos,Maputo,Accra,WindhoekandHarare.

Q: Are there any prospects as we speak?

A: Yes there are already prospects. We have about 12 potential properties at the moment across all three pillars. Since we have gone out with the rebrand we are contacted weekly by owners who are interested in letting us take over the managements of their hotels.

Q: What do you think the next ‘big’ thing is for the hotel industry?

A: Right now the room rates are down, and the drive is to get occupancy. The next big thing is to get stability in rates. AHA is keen to drive Lifestyle Retreats and is looking to grow into Africa. We are also looking at growing the activity business and are currently working on new activities. We have a very dedicated, energetic, dynamic team that looks forward to growing our portfolio, creating customer and client satisfaction. We want AHA to be synonymous with quality and a true African ex

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