Hopes bright at Radisson

Cindy Preller

THE Radisson Blu Hotel in the Bay is turning over a new leaf. Not only has a new general manager been appointed but the hotel will soon be under new ownership following the controversy surrounding the liquidation of the original developer and owner two years ago.

While the Radisson group remains committed to its 20-year management contract with the luxury beachfront hotel, the liquidation process of the previous owner and developer, Auspex Hotels and Leisure, is expected to be finalised by the end of March.

With an impressive record in the hospitality industry stretching over more than two decades at some of the top hotels in South Africa, new general manager Desmond O’Connor is ready for the task at hand.

The last permanent general manager at the hotel left the group over a year ago and since then the group has seconded acting general managers to keep the hotel running smoothly.

“The length of the 20-year management contract is proof of the longevity of the hotel and the international hotel group’s confidence in the city.

“This is great for PE, which in my short stay I have found to be a booming town. I am looking forward to the next three months as booking-wise we are looking extremely strong,” O’Connor said.

He said the hotel had almost made target in the previous financial year, with the occupancy and revenue rate up on the previous financial year.

“My objective is to make target and exceed it. The liquidation has put a negative spin on the hotel and I would like to change this perception.

“We have great staff and together we can put the hotel’s name back up there and change the perception there might be in the market,” he said.

The hotel’s clientele is split equally between domestic (30%), international (30%) and government (30%) visitors, with the remaining 10% a smaller mixed group of visitors.

With a track record as being the general manager at two of Cape Town’s top hotels – the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Three Cities Mandela Rhodes Place – O’Connor admits he was initially not sure about moving, but “instantly fell in love” with the hotel and city when he came to view it before taking up his new position on January 1.

“This is a very busy and prolific market. Port Elizabeth has a great small-town atmosphere,” O’Connor said.

Bay businessman Ben Nyaumwe rose to prominence in 2009 when he spearheaded the Radisson Blu development.

But in 2012, Auspex Hotels and Leisure was placed under liquidation shortly after Nyaumwe resigned from the Auspex board.

The original idea was to sell suites as sectional title investments, but only the top three floors of the 18-storey hotel were sold to private investors.

Owner of the majority of the privately owned suites is Gutsche Investment Management, run by Phil Gutsche.

Asked for comment yesterday on the finalisation of the liquidation, Gutsche said the R49-million he invested into the Radisson would not be recovered through the liquidation.

However, he described the suites as a “long-term investment” whereby he would eventually recover the money.

Industrial Development Corporation public relations manager Mandla Mpangase said the IDC was a main creditor in the liquidation and would review its position once liquidation had been completed.

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