Q&A: Game Changer

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Formerly the Southern Sun Grayston, Sun International’s the Maslow opened its doors in January, after a R250-million refurbishment. After a whirlwind first few months of operation, general manager Johan Scheepers found time to sit down with Business Traveller Africa, to discuss the hotel group’s first business travel-focused hotel.

How would you describe your first six months of operation?

The biggest challenge is putting together an executive management team that is integrated from the beginning. They have to have the emotional intelligence not to take things personally in those first six months, because there is a lot of hard work and long hours, and emotions run high. Also key are very robust employee-customer value propositions, as well as standard operating procedures that staff must be trained on.

Would you say that this is a bit of a departure for a group that has traditionally focused on leisure and gaming?

The location has consciously been positioned as a ‘game changer’. The Maslow Customer Value Proposition was designed after extensive research into guest needs. Growing our presence in Sandton has been a major focus, and this is the group’s first business-centric hotel in its Southern African portfolio.

Do you believe that there’s potentially more longevity for this property?

Yes, given the prime location on the corners of Grayston and Rivonia roads. The opening of the Maslow secures Sun International’s position in South Africa’s premier business node. The hotel will also act as a valuable stop-over point for inbound visitors who arrive from abroad en route to Sun International’s properties. The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City, The Table Bay in Cape Town and The Royal Livingstone in Zambia are all part of Sun International’s ‘Route of the African Sun’ and key attractions for international visitors.

What does your hotel offer that you believe meets the demands of the modern day business traveller?

The service and services offered in a business hotel differ in significant ways from the priorities in a leisure hotel. We’ve adapted our business to the needs of the business traveller. So, we open breakfast earlier, and offer free Wi-Fi so that they can be connected at all times. Seamless check-in and check-out is also very important to the business traveller. They want a healthy breakfast, and like to leave immediately, so we’ve tailored our breakfast menu to meet that demand. Inside the bedrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms and the lobby, there are local and international power points everywhere, so that the business traveller can be at leisure.

How important is it, nowadays, to offer comprehensive meeting and conference facilities, and why?

The market is competitive and dictates value for money, meeting rooms with catering facilities and a fully-fitted business-break area. Why? The requirement is functionality and ease of use – delegates prefer both the conference centre and meeting rooms to be less than a minute’s walk from the parking lot. Ease of access is important to busy, time-challenged executives. The Maslow has the latest technology – 40MBPS of bandwidth means each conference room can have its own dedicated bandwidth and high-speed Internet access, complimented by natural daylight and a healthy ‘brain food’ concept.

Is there anything unique about your meeting and conference offering?

The Maslow’s conference and meeting experience is very personalised. Meeting rooms are located away from the conference centre and provide the perfect business retreat for seminars, management meetings, training events and workshops. The all-inclusive package in the meeting rooms is a winner with the business community and includes the meeting room, parking, a dedicated personal butler, hi-tech equipment, Africology spa rejuvenation pack, Wi-Fi, soft drinks and juices, espresso coffee and a range of teas, lunch, wine and beer. There is also a central dining and lounge area, where attendees can socialise and enjoy flexible dining and networking. We have 12 meeting rooms.

What else do you feel will help you differentiate yourself in what is a competitive market?

Our signature Wayfarer Lounge is similar to an airport business lounge. It has been designed to enable guests to be totally productive while waiting to check in or before departure. There are international plug points, washrooms with showers, complimentary Wi-Fi, tea, coffee and confectionery, and guests can enjoy a la carte meals throughout the day.

Are there any trends in the African hotel industry that you’re picking up on?

Social media platforms are growing day by day, and it’s vital to create brand awareness through them. Guests will soon also be able to go online or use their mobile phones to check-in, order food and contact the hotel’s concierge.