Four hotels and the entertainment zones belonging to Sun City have or are in the process of being revamped in a five-year, R1-billion upgrade which will be complete in 2017.
Sun City started life as the iconic complex for South Africans and tourists alike, and up to that point, nothing like it had ever been seen in South Africa – or since.
Says Group GM for Brand and Communications, Michael Farr: “We have seen many changes to the complex since 1979 when the resort was built, notably the construction of the Palace of the Lost City, but there have been significant upgrades to the complex over the years. Our aim is to keep refreshing all our offerings at the complex to make sure we stay current with the needs and aspirations of our guests. Sun City remains really popular with locals, visitors and convention delegates.
“Once this refurbishment is complete, we are confident there will be nothing in South Africa to compare to it.
“Performance at Sun City has been affected by the visa restrictions introduced last year which choked off a lot of business from regions that were growing, disruption while the resort is undergoing renovation and a general decline in economic conditions in particular with corporates cutting back on conferences. The visa problem is now easing but it will take some time and we expect that with the new conference facilities open in 2017 we will win back much of this business. We are also growing a new line of business in VIP gaming, which brings international gaming tourists to the resort.
“Recently, however, we have seen an upturn in our occupancy rates. Sun City saw unprecedented growth in visitors from China and Hong Kong during the 2015/16 festive season as the weaker rand appeared to help counteract the negative impact from new visa regulations. The Palace Hotel accounted for 126 of the 133 rooms sold to Hong Kong guests and more than a quarter of the 383 rooms sold to Chinese visitors over December.”
In January this year, the company started a massive upgrade of the Entertainment Centre, focusing on a complete facilities upgrade to attract convention business throughout the week. Sun International has invested heavily in this upgrade to recapture its place as the premier convention venue in the country, which they are confident they will do.
“The temporary closure of the Entertainment Centre may be a bit disruptive but we really have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure our guests have a great time, including the creation of the Sky Village where we will be hosting all our normal conference business. We expect to reopen the Entertainment Centre by November 2016.”
The 382 luxury self-catering apartments at the Sun Vacation Club have already been upgraded and are selling well. This, according to the company, is the engine to fund the other major developments at the resort. The 380 bedrooms at the Cabanas have also been refurbished, along with refreshing the public areas and the pool bar, and relocating the children’s play areas. The entrance and reception area have been remodelled for a more contemporary and modern feel, with a balconied foyer overlooking the hotel’s newly rejuvenated restaurant.
The Sun City Hotel has also been repositioned to provide an “always on”, Vegas-style party zone, with night clubs, burlesque clubs and restaurants. The new Legends upmarket restaurant showcases memorabilia of celebrities who have stayed at Sun City over the years. This new 190-seater restaurant with an open action kitchen now has an entertainment stage too.
At the Cascades hotel, the Luma Bar was added in 2013, while Bocado Restaurant has replaced the old Santorini restaurant and offers Mediterranean cuisine for guests.
A new ultra-high end VIP casino has opened at The Palace – The Palace Villa and Salon. The upmarket Plume and Tusk Bar and Lounge have also been refurbished. The popular Grill Room has also been upgraded with a new lakeside terrace. The Palace will have a new spa in 2017 and an upgrade of the breakfast buffet area too.
Sun City has also boosted its entertainment offering for teenagers and adventurers with the launch of an adventure hub, Adrenalin Extreme, with a range of outdoor activities. The Valley of Waves water park has been extended with new rides – with more to come – while a new microbrewery-themed gastro pub, The Brew Monkey, has also been opened, along with a new fresh fast food eatery, Food Factory. Kamp Kwena, which has been a firm favourite for children for decades at Sun City, will also have a complete refresh.
Sun Park is a new multipurpose facility with an indoor events venue and outdoor space for hosting lifestyle events, music festivals and product launches.
“This is a very significant upgrade and the feedback so far has been exceptional. We have committed about R1-billion to making sure this icon of South African hospitality continues to offer everything leisure and business travellers could possibly want. The Sun City brand is an extremely strong one and there are few South Africans – and tourists to South Africa – who haven’t heard of Sun City and the kind of experiences that can be enjoyed at the complex. We’re really delighted with the improvements and innovations at Sun City and our guests are really enjoying them too.
“Our approach from inception has been to differentiate our hotels, resorts and casinos in architecture, service, experience, location and the mix of entertainment and activities. Creating lasting memories for our guests and customers is a core part of our DNA. We’ve created some the world’s most iconic hotels ranging from The Royal Livingstone Hotel at Victoria Falls, to The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town. The creative architecture of these properties and the blending of their designs with their local environment make each property unique.”