Swimming against Covid-19 tide, Millat Group opens glitzy Hyatt Sandton Hotel
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Pretoria: South Africa’s hospitality sector has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, with international travel restricted, varying lockdowns and a heavily suppressed economic outlook, but Hamza Farooqui, the chief executive of the Millat Investments Group, says there has been opportunity amidst the pandemic.
Figures released by Statistics South Africa show tourism in South Africa is in dire straits, with foreign arrivals dropped by 71%, from just over 15, 8 million in 2019 to less than five million in 2020.
“I think a hotel is a place that is meant to be open. They say there are three places in the world that are meant to be open 24 hours each day, and that is a police station, a hospital and a hotel. Hotels are meant to be meeting places, those are places where people actually come to life. Hotels are not just places where people come and go, they are meant to be a lot more,” said Farooqui.
The Millat Investments group recently celebrated the opening of its Hyatt House Johannesburg in Sandton, marking the group’s debut into the Hyatt House brand in Africa.
“That hotel is a home. We are committed to keeping our hotels open during this pandemic. It is difficult, it is challenging, especially considering the space South Africa is in right now. It is fairly challenging. But we are committed to keep the jobs, to keep the economic activity going,” said Farooqui.
He said Millat Investments has been in the hotel sector for a while and the Covid-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity “to bring significant scale”.
One of the lessons in any business if you really want to grow, is size matters. We have gone from one to three hotels in a space of 12 months during Covid-19, and that too with a global brand.”
The hotelier said business would be better in a world without travel restrictions and other effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“That is unfortunately not in my hands. There are people with much more clout in policy and probably in politics which are going to drive that. From our standpoint, we are going to go back in this sector and do the basics right. That means focusing on domestic, creating these spaces to serve our local customers better, going better and doing much product innovation and creating unique spaces, and doing what you can and what is in your control,” he said.
Farooqui said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s to keep South Africa on alert level 1 lockdown was wise and well considered.
“It’s common cause that earlier and harsher lockdowns had a devastating impact on the economy and taking us up a level, weeks before the start of the summer high-season, would have been catastrophic for the economy. The hospitality sector has been slowly recovering from the first wave of shutdowns and this trajectory is likely to continue if there are no further obstacles put in its way.”
Among other offers, Farooqui said the Hyatt House Johannesburg Sandton which has become the flagship of the Millat Investments Group offered:
• 62 guest rooms, including 43 residentially inspired studios and 19 suites with separate comfy living rooms. All guest rooms wre fully equipped with kitchens, working spaces, spacious bedrooms and stylish bathrooms.
• Complementary wi-fi throughout the hotel and guest rooms.
• The Commons, a comfy lounge with an open and welcoming space for guests to relax, gather and socialise, and the Outdoor Commons, which included an outdoor Braai, and Woodfired pizza space, the perfect place to sip cocktails and enjoy savoury bites.
• The Medley restaurant, which opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests could experience trendy and healthy cuisine.
• The H Bar, which featured the Sip + Snack Menu, showcased premium beers and wines, offered seven days a week.
• A 24-hour gym to keep fitness routines going, with cardio equipment, free weights, benches, multipurpose equipment and space to stretch.