One of Durban’s landmark beachfront hotels, the 32-storey Southern Sun North Beach, has begun a R52 million refurbishment programme which is scheduled to be complete by September 2012.

This is the largest private sector tourism investment in Durban’s Golden Mile since the opening of the Suncoast Hotel five years ago. Southern Sun Elangeni turned 40 years old last year and the Protea Hotel Edward celebrated its centenary.

Hotel manager Samantha Croft said the investment came in the wake of the eThekwini Municipality’s R200m upgrade of the beachfront promenade.

“This is a major investment that we’re making in the beachfront and is the biggest revamp in this hotel’s history,” she said. “The hotel was previously known as the Maharani Hotel, a 285-room 5-star establishment during the 70s and 80s, and was rebranded Southern Sun North Beach some years ago. However, the Durban public still fondly refers to it as the Maharani”, says General Manager Samantha Croft who is overseeing the revamp personally.

“We’re spending R52m on upgrading all the rooms and bathrooms and the main lifts are also being replaced. The hotel will get a long overdue plumbing overhaul, which will see all the pipes replaced. The entrance foyer and exterior of the building was refreshed some years back. The hotel is still one of the most modern buildings on Durban’s beachfront… its design was thought to be ahead of its time and it is one of the tallest hotels overlooking the promenade. The view is spectacular and uninterrupted from our pool deck,” said Croft.

The upgrade the hotel sees the introduction of an energy-saving card access system, which controls the lights in the rooms. For health conscious guests a new fitness centre would also be opened and the hotel’s 200-seat conference facility would be upgraded.

The upgrade began in January and would be done in phases to ensure minimum disruption to people staying at the hotel. 60 new rooms will be ready in time for the Easter season.

“We believe that the revamp will enhance the tourism profile of the beachfront and emphasises the confidence that Tsogo Sun has in the area. Hopefully other stakeholders will also be encouraged to refurbish their buildings,” she said.