InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has expanded its presence in South Africa with last week’s opening (25 November 2007) of its Holiday Inn property in the township of Kliptown, Soweto, an urban area in the South African city of Johannesburg.
Built at a cost of US$3.4 million, Holiday Inn Soweto Freedom Square made history as Soweto’s first internationally-branded hotel on 29 October 2007 during an opening ceremony which lasted for three days. Some of the distinguished guests who were present at the opening included Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Deputy President of South Africa, Reverend Frank Chikane, Director General of President Mbeki’s Office, Max Sisulu, son of black activist Walter Sisulu, and Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela.
John Bamsey, Chief Operating Officer, InterContinental Hotels Group, Middle East & Africa, said, “We are honoured to be the first international hotel company to contribute to the development of this thriving and historically important region. Holiday Inn Soweto Freedom Square will take hospitality standards to a new level by offering guests great value accommodation, friendly and dependable service and access to one of South Africa’s most esteemed heritage sites.”
The project is owned by Freedom Square Hotel (Pty) Limited, a consortium of leading business and leisure shareholders including Zatic Hotels and Resorts and a Community Trust.
“By opening Holiday Inn Soweto Freedom Square we will be supporting the Soweto community, commented Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, CEO of Zatic Hotels and Resorts. “The hotel will initially generate up to 40 permanent jobs and numerous opportunities will also be created through procurement of services from businesses based in Soweto. In addition, we will train young people from the local community who want to enter the hospitality sector.”
During the hotel’s construction, the developers have followed the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) procurement policy developed by the South African government to redress the inequalities of disadvantaged groups. “Contractors have used local labour and 80% of the workforce has come from Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) based in Soweto,” explained Sangweni-Siddo. “A total of US$2.1 million has been spent on the construction and 50% of this amount has been paid to local subcontractors and labourers.”
The ‘Mus’ukulinda Amathuba Trust’ has also been set up by the hotel’s shareholders to support local women’s groups, churches, youth organisations and the disabled. “This project gives a sense of hope to the people as well as the resources to develop many new opportunities,” commented Peter Mbuli, the Executive Director of the Ipeleng Youth Development Program.
Located within ‘Walter Sisulu Square’, named after the anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu, in the township of Kliptown, Holiday Inn Soweto features 48 well-appointed and comfortable guest rooms, including two luxurious suites. It also has two executive board rooms complete with modern conferencing facilities, and a hip, jazz-inspired restaurant to complement Soweto’s growing reputation as a centre for nightlife and culture.
While the hotel’s exterior follows the original architectural design of Walter Sisulu Square, which has an African theme and references to Kliptown’s heritage, the avant-garde interiors are an eclectic blend of old and new, pointing to the modern development and revival of Kliptown. Formica is combined with classic Egyptian cotton, and period photographs by the famous South African photographer, Alf Kumalo, adorn the walls alongside expressive embroidered art by one of the local Soweto Co-op artists.
South Africa is already one of the world’s most favoured travel destinations and the World Travel and Tourism council expects an annual growth of 4.4% in South Africa’s tourism sector over the next 10 years.
Inline with this growth, Kliptown is soon expected to make its mark as a destination on the world tourist map, with its heritage site offering local and international visitors a unique experience. It is estimated that over 200,000 visitors already tour the Soweto township each year to see sites such as the famous Vilakazi Street - the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners, anti-apartheid icons Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, have lived.
IHG has extensive expansion plans in South Africa across several of it brands, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. The group plans to launch the first Express by Holiday Inn hotel in Cape Town by the end of this year.