5 Luxury boutique hotels that prove women-led businesses are the future

A diverse group of women discuss business. Picture: Unsplash

A diverse group of women discuss business. Picture: Unsplash

Published Aug 24, 2023


Girls rule the world, right? Well, not quite so.

According to Athenkosi Ntenjana’s research, ‘Women in Tourism Entrepreneurship in South Africa: Is it a Man’s World?’, although the tourism industry is dominated largely by a female workforce, due to the prevalence of jobs associated with femininity, especially in the hospitality sector, women are mainly employees in tourism organisations owned and managed by men, and there is still a need to promote women-owned tourism businesses.

According to Statista, In 2021, travel and tourism contributed nearly 3.2 percent to the Gross Domestic Product of South Africa; however the share declined notably from 6.4 percent in 2019, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.

South Africa’s unemployment statistics are also not so great when it comes to women. According to recently released data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), unemployment numbers for women remain higher than the national average, with 35.7% of South African women in the labour force without work, and looking for work.

In 2015, the Retosa Women in Tourism Conference highlighted that tourism had the potential to contribute to greater gender equality and the empowerment of women, in line with the Third Millennium Development Goal.

The conference heard that tourism offers women opportunities for income generation and entrepreneurship, despite the fact that women are concentrated in the lowest paid, lowest skilled sectors of the industry, and carry out a large amount of unpaid work in family tourism businesses.

Even though women are not well represented in the highest levels of employment and management of the tourism industry, here are some proudly South African women-owned luxury hotels to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurship in tourism.

De Kloof Heritage Estate Boutique Hotel & SPA - Swellendam

A suite at De Kloof Luxury Estate. Picture: Website

Owned by Marjolein Van Mourik Borrias, De Kloof Heritage Estate Boutique Hotel & Spa, also De Kloof Heritage Estate 1801, is described as a country estate between wine and whales.

The boutique estate focuses on healing and wellness for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

De Kloof Luxury Estate has four accommodation options: The Retreat - Luxury self-catering cottage, Merlot Garden Suite, Shiraz Grand Suite, Family two-bedroom Suite Cottage, and Exclusive Use Lodge with six units.

The estate has a spa that offers yoga, and a variety of treatments including Sound Gong Therapy (GONG), Kundalini Yoga, Tremor Therapy (TRE®) and Sound Healing & Movement Therapy (Monochord bed).

A stay at the luxury estate starts at R2 995 a unit per night (The Retreat).

Vivari Hotel and Spa - Johannesburg

A suite at Vivari Hotel. Picture: Website

Vivari is a Sanskrit word which, when loosely translated, means ‘uncovered’. The hotel, near the Cradle of Humankind, may be owned by Mantis, but is the brainchild of Dr Anushka Reddy, who specialises in aesthetic medicine.

According to the hotel, it is the first hotel and spa, as well as aesthetic clinic and hospital, accredited by the Department of Health and focusing on cosmetic surgery.

With Vivari, it is said that Dr Reddy aimed to put South Africa on the map as an international destination of choice for discerning patients seeking privacy for their medical treatments.

The hotel has 48 luxury rooms that blend into the leafy environment, three well-equipped conference rooms, a spa and a restaurant (Brambles).

It also offers gin tasting, wine tasting, yoga and wellness treatments.

A stay at the hotel starts at R 3 230 a person per night.

Royal Malewane - Greater Kruger

A suite at Waterhouse at Royal Malewane. Picture: Website

Part of the Royal Portfolio owned by Liz Biden, Royal Malewane, in the Kruger National Park, consists of three luxury safari lodges - Malewane, Farmstead and Waterside - for those wanting the ultimate in luxury African bush experience.

Speaking to Fathom, Biden revealed that after retiring from her fashion business at the age of 50, she proposed to her husband that they convert their holiday homes into private hotels.

“We were very fortunate to have a beautiful place in the African bush. We wanted to share all our incredible memories and experiences with others, and so we decided to convert our family home into the luxurious lodge that is now Royal Malewane,” she said.

Since Royal Malewane is in the African bush, guests get to enjoy game drives with guides and trackers, safari on foot, birding safaris, helicopter rides showcasing the Greater Kruger and Drakensberg Mountains, golfing, and cruising Blyde River Canyon.

A stay at the hotel starts at R 43 000 for the Luxury Suite.

The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa - Khayelitsha

A luxury suite at the Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa in Khayelitsha. Picture: Website

After working as a flight attendant for a decade, and inspired by travelling to dreamy locations such as Bali, Annette Skaap opened The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa in December 2021.

The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa offers 13 luxurious suites in the township of Khayelitsha, perfect for those wanting to experience cultural diversity, the spirit of ubuntu (humanity), feast on African cuisine, and to share spaces with ordinary South Africans while tucked in luxury accommodation.

The hotel has a heated pool, luxury spa, restaurant and bar that specialises in African cuisine.

The hotel gives travellers the opportunity to experience the other side of Cape Town, and an authentic South African stay.

A stay at the hotel starts at R 1500 a night for a luxury suite.

Teremok Lodge & Spa - Umhlanga

A suite at Teremok Lodge and Spa in Umhlanga. Picture: Instagram

Holiday home turned 5-star boutique lodge, Teremok, showcases the power of three - Debbie Davidson, Tracy Gielink and Kim Davidson.

The mother and daughters trio, dubbed the trilogy, worked and travelled together to create the lodge along the tropical belt of KwaZulu-Natal.

Nestled among the palm and giant Milkwood trees in Umhlanga, the lodge’s name translates from the Russian word for ‘little hideaway’.

The lodge features a bar, spa, gym and eight luxury suites perfect those wanting to explore Durban and Umhlanga in the lap of luxury.

A stay at the lodge starts at R 4 800 a night for two in the Palm Suite.