The Maslow reopened its doors in October after being shuttered for six months during the Covid-19 pandemic. Herman Swart, General Manager, says its business as ‘unusual’ in the new normal, as the Sandton hotel works its way back to being the district’s premier business hotel.
“As our hotel is heavily dependent on corporate business, international travellers, tour groups and airline crews our revenues since reopening in October are just under a third of what they were for the same period last year. This is about the average for most hotels in the area,” said Swart who has been with Sun International since 1989.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the hotel has seen an increase in local clientele enjoying weekend meals at the Lacuna Bistro and spending time at the pool in the tranquil gardens. Stay-cations seem to be the trend. “After 30 years in Hotel and Gaming operations, it is now very difficult to understand trends and predict the longevity of client behaviour, such as this upswing in the local leisure business. “
“We are now hosting many smaller functions like baby showers and birthday parties. The larger events of up to 250 + people are few and far between. We have however seen that enquiries for conferencing are starting to pick up.”
Swart came to his office at The Maslow daily during lockdown, to stay in the routine of working and keep an eye on the property. “The rest of the time I was reading or watching YouTube videos on surviving natural disasters” he jokes. During the lock down he was asked to take Sun Carousel back under his wing. Part of this project was to complete the shutdown and mothballing of the property. Once a tenant was found work started to prepare the building for the lease.
“The most difficult part about lockdown for me was isolation from people and the loss of face-to-face contact with our guests and staff. Our business is about people. My high point was deciding to open again.”
One of the lessons learnt was that it “takes longer to open a hotel than to close one.” “The deterioration in a property which is closed happens so quickly. Dirt, dust, leaves, long grass, pests etc. Rooms also had to be sanitised completely. It took about three weeks to be ready to open our doors.”
When he heard The Maslow was to re-open, he was apprehensive. “We limited our staff compliment due to extreme low levels of business but also to minimise the risk of infection. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to deliver, especially since staff had been on a six month break and were out of practice.” However, Swart was pleasantly surprised at everyone’s willingness to return to work and get stuck in.
Once the pandemic is over, some of the measures which have worked well, will remain standard practice. “On our breakfast buffet we will keep the pre-packaged food items as these have proven to work well for our customers who are often more inclined to grab ‘n go.” In the rooms, washable covers for the TV remote controls and coffee station trays will also stay.
Swart said he was hoping for a busier December than normal, due to the trend in local leisure business.
We aren’t going to see significant international travel till June 2021. That is of course if we don’t hit another wave of infections that will necessitate further restrictions being imposed.”
When he finally gets to travel again, Swart and his dog will visit his farm in the Outeniqua mountains outside Mossel Bay. “I am also looking forward to going to Qatar to meet my grandson who was born during lockdown.”