WATCH: Sun City set to welcome visitors for first time since lockdown
Pretoria - Sun City, South Africa’s iconic tourist destination, welcomes back visitors for the first time today since closing its doors at the start of the national lockdown in March.
The moment, celebrated by staff yesterday with a performance of the #Jerusalema challenge, was significant not only for North West province but for the local tourism industry as a whole, said Sun City general manager, Brett Hoppe.
Having worked at Sun City twice before, Hoppe moved from Time Square, Pretoria, to take up the top position at Sun International’s flagship establishment, but had barely started when Covid-19 struck.
“If you had said to me in January that in March we will shut down Sun City - a property which has traded 24/7 365 days a year for the past 40 years - and not trade for 156 days I would not have believed it.
“The first two weeks we drove around the resort in a bit of a ‘dwaal’ (dazed state). It was uncanny, no cars, no people.”
Hoppe reflected on that time when he did site checks on his motorbike and saw the wildlife come out from the bushes and drink from the hotel pools. One evening they even had a leopard take a night-time stroll through the porte-cochère (covered entrance to a building) of the Soho Hotel, he said.
But the reality is that the tourism industry has been decimated by the Covid-19 lockdown and it was not time to rest: there was much work to be done ahead of the day restrictions on inter-provincial travel and leisure stays were lifted.
At this stage, the reopening is partial with initial hotel visitors mainly from the Joburg/Pretoria area and the Vacation Club playing catch-up to accommodate member bookings.
Hoppe said challenges remained the lack of international inbound flights seeing that 30% of Sun City’s guests were international; restrictions on conferences - an important source of revenue for Sun City - and ensuring proper compliance with all Covid-19 protocols.
In the first phase, The Palace at the Lost City , Lost City Golf Course, Soho Hotel, casino, and the Vacation Club are open from 10am today, with the Cabanas, Valley of Waves and Gary Player Golf Course due to open later.
Day visitors - except guests with prior bookings for golf or the spa - will not be admitted at this stage and the Cascades Hotel remains closed while it undergoes a total refurbishment.
Safety protocols have been taken very seriously with Hoppe describing Sun City as a “bio-bubble” where, once inside, staff and guests could be secure in the knowledge they were in a safe space.
From the time one arrives at the gate, pre-screening is done and there are temperature checks, sanitising stations and physical distancing applications at every facility across the site. In the restaurants, food safety is paramount; menus are disposable, cutlery is packaged, and buffets have been replaced with food covered and served in individual portions.
There’s modern thermal imaging at the Soho Hotel and casino, and on the floor tables are limited to four players with plexiglass partitions protecting players and croupier, as well as limits to the number of slots and partitions between the machines.
With everything in place many of the staff were back on Monday, and around the resort there were signs of the finishing touches being done before the guests returned. The excitement of those who met the media during a preview was tangible, with many mentioning how much they had missed people and how happy they were to be back at work.
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** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za