As the renowned Raffles nightclub atop Durban’s landmark Maharani Hotel made a comeback in a new guise last night, hotel and gaming giant Tsogo Sun announced that it was investing a further R100 million in another of its beachfront properties.

Tsogo Sun boss, Marcel von Aulock (CORR), revealed the new investment would go into a major refurbishment of its Garden Court Marine Parade hotel. He was speaking at the glamorous launch of Sky, a new multipurpose venue which is part of the R220m overhaul and relaunch of the Elangeni and Maharani hotel complex.

This brings to more than R320m that the group has committed to revamping its main breakfront properties. Last year (September) The Mercury reported that Tsogo Sun was also betting on securing approval from the city for an ambitious R1.5 billion expansion of its Suncoast Casino and entertainment complex.

Von Aulock said the group’s investment into its beachfront hotels was spurred by the substantial investment by the eThekwini Municipality of over R300m into the revival of the beachfront promenade.

“Following the success of the Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani, the next project to be undertaken by Tsogo Sun is a R100m refurbishment of the Garden Court Marine Parade, one of the most iconic buildings on the beachfront,” he said.

The upgrade, commencing in April, entailed refurbishment of all 346 hotel rooms, public areas, and conference facilities, however, the building’s art deco theme would be retained.

“Every stage that we go through in the ongoing revamping of our Durban Golden Mile properties makes us prouder than ever… The beachfront is a particularly ‘good news’ story for us as the joint efforts of the city council as well as private investors in the area have seen a complete new lease on life for the area,” said von Aulock.

He said the Sky venue represented a complete renovation of the popular Raffles bar that thrived at the top of the old Maharani Hotel three decades ago. Sky was the latest phase to be complete in the R220m revamp and relaunch of the Elangeni and Maharani.

“Whenever the return of the Maharani was discussed people asked two questions: what about the red outdoor lift and what about Raffles. Unfortunately we couldn’t bring the red lift back as modern health and safety rules make the original design defunct, so we have installed a multicolour LED light show, which creates a presence and brings life to the building,” he said.

“Whilst some nostalgic types will say it’s not the same, a whole new generation of visitors, especially children, will leave with the image of the lights of the Maharani as one of their enduring memories of their holiday in Durban. For the space formerly occupied by Raffles, our development team came up with concept of a truly spectacular multi-purpose events venue,” von Aulock added.

Deputy city manager, Naledi Moyo, said the eThekwini Municipality had put a lot of effort in repositioning itself as a destination, which was now bearing fruit.

“The response by the private sector, in particular by Tsogo Sun, has been a large-scale investment into the city, which is vital for its future.”

Source: Business Report – Suren Naidoo