Q&A: Legacy Hotels – Leaving a legacy
Q: Can you summarise where you are with the Leonardo development? What has been done and what is still to be completed?
A: We are weeks away from opening our doors, and currently in the final stages of snagging. We have our sights set on an official launch date on 1 February 2020. Completed thus far is: all our basement parking floors, ground floor retail floors, level 5 reception, Leo’s Lounge, and the Leonardo conference and event centre (seating around 300 delegates). Moving to level 7, we have completed the Nurture to Nature Preschool, Leonardo Legacy Balance Spa, Leonardo Gym, Octo Bar, and Aurum Restaurant. Prime office space is available on floors 9 to 13, and some 200 residences on level 14 and up. Yet to be completed are floors 42 to 51, which will one day become our luxury hotel. Floors 52, 53, and 54 will house our top penthouse – The Leonardo Suite, which is still under construction. However, the exterior of the building and magnificent Alto234 bar at the pinnacle are ready to go!
Q: What will be the USP of the hotel within the development?
A: A combination of many things. The vision and the reason for building this development, is to be the beacon of hope and faith, not only for the future of South Africa, but for the continent. We believe in the development and growth and we are putting our faith in this by making the statement that is the Leonardo. The art in the building is in a league of its own. The Leonardo is a journey through art, and the building was designed, engineered and built around ideas of art. This is not a building that features art. It is the story of art moulded into a building. The food is no different. All natural ingredients are organically grown or purchased locally, and Aurum Restaurant serves perfectly-curated cuisine for any palate.
Q: You’re not concerned that Sandton is already over-traded from a high-end hotel point of view?
A: The Leonardo is not a just a high-end hotel/residence building, it is a complete lifestyle in one. So, this isn’t really adding hotel rooms to a market, it is adding a unique lifestyle option into the market.
Q: What type of corporate travel business are you expecting to receive at the hotel?
A: High-end accommodation business – global leaders in all industries, residential business for business leaders relocating, corporate business that commutes to Johannesburg weekly – who need the convenience of home and hotel, and lastly residential conferences.
Q: And you’re not concerned this might cannabalise your existing Sandton offerings, in the form of the likes of the Michelangelo?
A: Guests have a tendency to try a new product, so some may try and stay, others may try and return to their preferred hotel. However, we don’t think Leonardo will affect our hotels in Sandton, but it may have a greater effect on some boutique operations.
Q: Does Legacy have any other new developments or acquisitions in the works?
A: Elephant Point Lodge bordering the Kruger National Park is in its final stages of the completion of the Residence Lodges. They are incredible two, three, four and five-bedroom lodges, all with uninterrupted views over the Sabie River and Big Five territory. In 2020 we will break ground on the 60-bedroom lodge on the same site.
Q: Can you explain what happened with your African Sun Zimbabwe partnership?
A: Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to discuss as this matter is still an active legal discussion. What we will say is that the five Legacy Hotels & Resorts-managed properties in Zimbabwe added a wonderful footprint for our guests and we are very sad to not be able to continue to offer this to them after the great success and standards achieved over the three-and-a-half years of running them.
Q: What are your general views on the African hotel development space?
A: Africa is not for the meek or mild. You need to be bold and committed. There are many countries, cities and areas of development for hospitality, you just need to find the right partners, location and product; be fully committed and find ways to overcome the obstacles. We believe it is still the continent with lots of opportunities.
Q: Where do you believe the next African hotel development hot spots will be?
A: Rwanda, Uganda, and Mozambique. Having said that, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana continue to be hot spots.
Q: Where would you like to see Legacy Hotels & Resorts in 10 years’ time?
A: Our future expansion into Africa in key in corporate destinations, partnering with new developments or looking at existing hotels and multi-faceted properties where the economies are solid and with good governance principles. Resort-type properties in exquisite locations where we feel our development and management background can add value would be considered too.