Sun City Resort has remained bullish about prospects of tourism for the upcoming festive season and beyond on the back of recovering international travel, a softer rand exchange rate, and pent up demand locally.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Tourism Leadership Conference on Friday, Sun City Resort general manager Brett Hoppé said there was renewed confidence in Sun City following persistent criticism that the resort was a drag on Sun International from a cash perspective.
Hoppé said international recovery was following the same trends that were seen in the domestic recovery, but the domestic leisure segment was “very buoyant”.
“And for South Africa as a whole, you're going to see this pent up demand. Not so for mining, but for hospitality and hotels, the soft rand is amazing,” Hoppé said.
“If you look at the value proposition on the McDonald’s scale, we are basically for free. So the value proposition is great. You can’t have half a steak in New York for what you are getting it for here.”
The jewel in Sun International crown is gearing up to open its R259 million Sun Vacation Club (SVC) at the end of October, Sun City’s first development at the resort in 18 years, which will increase the SVC to 478 units.
Dubbed Lefika Villas, the expansion includes 48 three-bedroom villas, 10 four-bedroom villas, and a recreational area with a resort pool, family restaurant and kid’s play area.
Hoppé said though the resort had a little bit of a softer July and August, demand had ticked up from September for the rest of the year with corporate and entertainment events of more than 800 people, leisure visitors over weekends, the upcoming Nedbank Golf Challenge in November, and the domestic festive season.
He said they have already made successful pre-sales on the Vacation Club units, which has continued to guarantee the creation and preservation of jobs they secured even during Covid-19 period.
“We really are in a fortuitous position now where we started to see that impetus of job positive, we are finishing the third phase of Vacation Club. We will be finished at the end of October in preparation for the Nedbank Golf Challenge,” Hoppé said.
“The four-bedrooms are sold out, literally in total. In fact, we might have made a small error in terms of anticipating the four-bedroom demand.”
The development represents Sun International’s first significant expansion at Sun City since 2004 when it developed The Aviary, the second accommodation offering introduced at the Sun Vacation Club.
As part of the development, there will be significant inclusion of surrounding communities in upliftment and skills transfer projects, with a stipulated 30% build value to be allocated to local contractors.
Hoppé said the third phase of the project across the road from the main Conference Centre was awaiting a board approval and would be a little bit more of a “densified development”.
However, Hoppé also echoed similar concerns to industry players about the some factors that were still crippling business and leisure travel, especially the visa regime and national air access.
“The first half of 2023, this has been fabulous for us, predominantly driven by domestic markets, although we are seeing some signs of international returning in certain markets,” he said.
“We’ve seen some signs of recovery from the Indian market, and certain areas in South Africa have recovered more quickly than others remembering that our international markets are dependent on airlift.
“All the early additional airlift that has come in has gone into Cape Town because of the second tranche of air that switches on now, kind of August, September, October.
“A couple of Middle Eastern carriers and some South American air is switching on direct flights coming into OR Tambo International Airport.
“But all of us are concerned about visa scenarios. For example, we have literally no direct flights for a massive market like China, and this is our massive problem. You know, so from a growth perspective, looking forward, you know, we're very concerned and the government needs to step in to address those issues as quickly as possible.”