Durban’s famous Maharani hotel is making a comeback in a R220 million redevelopment of the landmark Southern Sun Elangeni and North Beach hotels into one mega 734-room hotel on the beachfront.

This is the biggest private sector tourism investment on the Golden Mile since the opening of the Suncoast Hotel in 2006 and the eThekwini Municipality’s R200m overhaul of the promenade for the 2010 World Cup. It will also make the complex the biggest hotel in South Africa.

More details of the plan were revealed by the Tsogo Sun bosses in the city yesterday. They announced that the “new” hotel would be renamed the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani after the redevelopment launched during the Tourism Indaba in May.

When The Mercury first reported on the redevelopment last year, Samantha Croft, the hotel’s general manager, said Tsogo Sun was investing R52m to upgrade the venue. But, yesterday, Croft said the group had decided to go for a more ambitious plan to combine and upgrade the hotels and bring the Maharani name back.

“We have upped our investment to R220m, which includes upgrading all the rooms, a stunning new pool area, new conference facilities and lifts and a total overhauled and re-landscape of the front entrance that will link the two hotels. As part of the plan, the entire building is being repainted, including the Maluti apartment block in-between at our cost,” she said.

“The 32nd floor that once was home to the popular Raffles nightclub during the heyday of the Maharani will be converted into a multipurpose conference and eventing area with incredible views of the beachfront and Indian Ocean,” said Croft.

Both hotels were built by hotel magnate Sol Kerzner in the 1970s, but the five-star Maharani Hotel changed its name to the Southern Sun North Beach hotel in the 1990s after changes in ownership and was downgraded to four-star status.

Tsogo Sun chief executive, Marcel von Aulock said: “Our group’s investment into the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel complex is a direct response to the substantial investment into the revival of the Durban beachfront promenade by the eThekwini municipality.

“Durban has been upgraded as a destination and we are proud to be a part of it,” Von Aulock said.

The eThekwini mayor, James Nxumalo, said he was delighted by the role Tsogo Sun was playing in adding to the renewed vibrancy and confidence in Durban.

“There is so much good news to be told about the renewal of our city. The merger of these two hotels, which are such significant landmarks on the beachfront and carry historical stature, is of great significance in repositioning the Durban beachfront. It signals investor confidence in the precinct,” he said.

Source: Business Report – Suren Naidoo