By Ravi Nadasen, Tsogo Sun Hotels COO
Tsogo Sun is proudly celebrating 50 years of delivering beyond expectations. It’s a big milestone – and we can look back with a lot of pride and a touch of awe at the group’s rich heritage as a dynamic, responsive to the market, and growth-centred business in the hospitality industry in South Africa and further afield in Africa.
This is a golden celebration of the journey that we’ve travelled over five decades, the great memories we’ve created for our guests, and the growth and development of the amazing people in the company and who’ve worked for us over the years.
Milestones and fun facts
Our list of milestones, highlights, and fascinating facts reflect our legacy, as well as the vision and values that the people leading this business have had and still have. Here are some in a nutshell:
- In 1969 SA Breweries and Sol Kerzner created Southern Sun Hotels with six hotels, including the beautiful Beverly Hills in Umhlanga, where a one-night stay then cost a princely R8!
- The group’s rewards programme was also launched in 1969 as Natal Sun & Fun Holidays, which was renamed SunBreaks in 1986, when guests could book a stay for R29.50.
- Cape Sun in Cape Town opened its doors in 1983 and Sandton Sun in 1984.
- By 1985, Southern Sun had expanded to 26 hotels and acquired Holiday Inn SA hotels, growing to 49 hotels in the upmarket and mid-market segments.
- By 1995, Tsogo Sun Holdings successfully obtained five casino licences and the gaming era was launched with the opening of Emnotweni Casino in 1997 as the first casino in the new regulated environment in South Africa. In 1998 The Ridge opened.
- Montecasino opened in 2000, Hemingways in 2001, and Suncoast in 2002.
- From 2009 to 2011, Tsogo Sun acquired Blackrock and The Caledon, and the group merged with Gold Reef, adding seven casinos – Gold Reef City, Silverstar, Golden Horse, Garden Route, Mykonos, Goldfields, and an investment in Queens.
- Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani opened in 2013 as Tsogo Sun’s biggest hotel with 734 rooms.
- Tsogo Sun acquired a controlling stake in Hospitality Property Fund in 2016 and GameCo in 2017.
- In 2019, the group unbundled to form two companies – Tsogo Sun Hotels and Tsogo Sun Gaming – both of which listed on the JSE.
- HI Hotels, a new ‘limited service’ hotel brand, was introduced in 2019, with the first of 10 to be opened at Montecasino in December.
- Tsogo Sun currently has 16,211 hotel rooms – 14,303 in South Africa and 1,908 offshore – and a further 2,635 in the Tsogo-operated HPF hotels.
- Tsogo Sun is the only South African hospitality company with Proudly South African status.
These achievements, changes, and acquisitions also highlight the rich contribution Tsogo Sun has made to the development of both the hotel and tourism industries in South Africa. We’ve developed a distribution of hotels from Ulundi to Langebaan, up to Polokwane, and everywhere in between, giving us a wide footprint across the country, with treasured gems in various hubs of growth.
The variety of hotel offerings ranges from Sun1 to the Palazzo at Montecasino and MAIA in the Seychelles, and ensures that we offer something for every traveller. We’ve also been consistent in our capital investment in our properties to ensure quality experiences for our guests, which in turn has supported SA Tourism’s efforts to promote quality tourist experiences.
We are a proud part of the industry’s growth, and our products and offerings have evolved with the needs of the industry and travellers – on the continent and Indian Ocean Islands, venturing to the Seychelles in 1988 and into Africa in 1993.
People are key
People are at the heart of our success. We’ve always sought to attract and retain the best talent and grow our people – who are the differentiator. Tsogo Sun Hotels and Gaming together employ 14,145 people, 190 of whom have 30 years and over with the group and 507 with 20 to 29 years of service. The longest serving staff member is just a couple of months away from 45 years with the group.
Our guests too, are vital to our legacy. We have people who’ve celebrated their milestones with us, who holidayed with us when they were children and now stay with us as business guests or bring their families for their holidays. It’s always wonderful hearing the stories of “When I was a kid, my folks brought me to The Elangeni.” Or “I remember the red lift going up to Raffles at Maharani.” And more.
Something else Tsogo Sun is good at, is building and maintaining strong and long-lasting relationships. On the sports scene, we have hosted Cricket South Africa, the Proteas, and visiting international cricket teams, and been the official hotel group to various international tournaments; we hosted both the 1996 and 2014 African Cup of Nations football tournaments and have frequently hosted our national team; we have had a partnership with SA Rugby and the Springboks since the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and hosted many teams for tournaments off all sizes.
I’ve been with the group since 1996 when I finished studying and started as an Assistant Food & Beverage Manager at Drakensberg Sun, and have since enjoyed a career that has taken me the length and breadth of South Africa. I have had the opportunity to work for and alongside some industry greats and I’m pleased to be part of the growth and heritage of Tsogo Sun.
- A personal achievement was being appointed GM. Having studied hotel management, it was my short-term goal to be a general manager by 30 – it happened just after that. It was a proud moment for my dad too, who worked his entire life for our company.
- One of the most rewarding things for me is to see people grow in the group, and many have embraced opportunities and flourished. An example that stands out is Wayne Smith, recently appointed GM of Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani. Wayne joining us just out of school in 1999 as an operational support staff, switchboard operator. He now celebrates 20 years with Tsogo and is at the helm of one of our most complex operations.
- Other fond memories include being a proud host of all national sporting teams over the years – and being in the hotels where the Springboks stayed for World Cup preparation camps, and in Cape Town for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
For me, Tsogo Sun is always delivering ‘something special for everyone’ – guests, visitors, employees, and stakeholders.
As part of that and in celebration of our 50th birthday, we’re giving away amazing specials of up to 50% off on accommodation at selected hotels over the winter holidays. Click here for more information and go ahead and book your #SunBreaksVacay.