The Capital on the Park reception and pool areas. Picture: Supplied.
The Capital on the Park reception and pool areas. Picture: Supplied.

SA hotel group prepared for tough times during covid-19 outbreak

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Mar 21, 2020

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South Africans are in a vice-like grip of uncertainty, fear, confusion and overall helplessness with the steadily growing numbers of reported coronavirus cases. 

Every industry is feeling the knock-on effect this is having on the economy. 

In a time of crisis, solutions are needed. Marc Wachsberger, the chief executive officer at The Capital Hotel and Apartments, provided insight into how they, as disruptors in the market, have built their business model to weather upsets. 

First, a bit about the company, though. He said: “We’ve been operating for 11 years. Yes, we are relatively small in relations to the whole market but we are becoming more and more well-known. We have 1600 rooms compared to, for an example City Lodge, which has 6000 rooms. 

"So we are about a quarter of the size. We are the new kids on the block but we are the fastest growing hotel group. We are the ones disrupting the status quo of the market.”

What sets them apart from other hotels?They have apartments available as an option for longer stays as well as interleading two-bedroom apartments.

Although they cater for the business traveller, they welcome leisure holidaymakers, too. 

Reflecting on the trends they’ve noticed, Wachsberger added: “The first most important trend is that SA has been in a recession or near recession going on 10 years really. We had such a wonderful World Cup Soccer and so many hotels got booked. Since then, we have been in a recession, where every year corporates and business travellers are more and more budget-conscious and more and more about making sure they get value for money. 

“Uncompromisingly, they want the best and the simplest wifi, which we obviously provide. They want safety and security and they want a form of being looked after, entertained and to have a relationship with their business provider, which is something that we focus on - putting some personality, you might say, into our hotels.”

He continued: “What they don’t want are things like turn down service, which a lot of old hotels does. The same goes for all the frilly kinds of things like soaps, fumes that go into the bathroom and porters that carry your bags.”

Marc Wachsberger, the chief executive officer at The Capital Hotel and Apartments, provides insight into market disruption and how they are minimising the impact of covid-19. Picture: Supplied.

Of course, paying heed to the wants of their business traveller is one part of the battle won when dealing with a global crisis like covid-19, where cancellations become par for the course. 

“We are not immune to it,” he responded. “It’s more from an international market that we are seeing cancellations. But we are seeing an acceptance of domestic travel, which we have replaced that lost business with.”

The chief executive officer is confident about the measures they have put into place at their establishments across South Africa, too. 

He explained: “We are really proud to say as a young and entrepreneurial and nimble business, we have reacted swiftly to ensure the highest protection for our guests by introducing sanitising constantly throughout our hotels. 

"That means, we have provided hand sanitisers throughout the hotel as well as briefed our cleaning team to constantly sanitize all areas in the hotel multiple times a day. In addition to that, we have introduced the testing of all our staff, for fevers, on arrivals as well as ensuring that they are trained and aware in terms of their own sanitation with constant hand washing and hourly mandatory requirements as a minimum.”

“Our objective is to create the safest corona free environment possible. And we have obviously trained our staff, starting with our general managers, on how to handle any potential guest issue and how to quarantine and who to call and what to do.”

He added: “The reality is that we are in for tough times. But we are used to tough times. We were born in tough times. Capital Hotel and Apartments was born in 2008, in the global financial crisis, and our whole business model has been geared to ensure we are prepared for all the downsides. 

"We were already kicked in the nuts with Nene Gate and we were hit with the water crisis in Cape Town. We have been hit with a recessionary economy in South Africa. As they say, what more can you throw at us, which is relative to the world?”

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