Luxury group opts out of hotel deal

King Edward no longer set to fly Lion Roars’ banner after owners fail to stump up for four-star revamp

Hopes that Port Elizabeth’s iconic landmark King Edward Hotel would become part of a top hospitality group’s luxury portfolio have been dashed. This after the owners failed to provide enough funding for the big revamp.

However, the 103-year-old hotel is still undergoing upgrading and will officially reopen to the public within two months.

Eastern Cape hospitality group Lion Roars Hotels and Lodges said it had terminated its contract to manage and operate the hotel under its banner.

The group announced the contract in March when it said it was managing the maintenance and restoration of the sweeping facility, which it had expected to officially relaunch in November.

The hotel, which is owned by United Arab Emirates businessman Sheik Khalaf Ahmed Khalaf Al Otaiba, is however now open for business, but will host a “grand official opening” in the next two months once repairs and refurbishments have been completed.

This was confirmed yesterday by the hotel’s financial manager, Joey Oosthuizen, who said the facility would be run as a standalone hotel under the same ownership.

The hotel would have been included in Lion Roars’ portfolio ranging from boutique and luxury hotels, to wine estates, lodges, game reserves and tours.

The hotel, which enjoys commanding views of the Port Elizabeth Harbour and the Donkin Reserve, has been closed since 2008 after it was bought by Akula Trading 184, which, according to Legal City, is a company registered by Al Otaiba, who has used the property as a private residence.

Lion Roars head Kevin Bailey said the group had been excited by the opportunity to restore the historic hotel to its former glory and operate it under its banner, along with its other fourstar products in Port Elizabeth.

“Unfortunately, the owners have decided not to invest the funds required to restore the hotel to the product and service levels required for a Lion Roars four-star operation,” he said.

“Without this investment, Lion Roars can’t guarantee our signature product and service levels and so have made the hard decision to terminate the contract.”

Al Otaiba’s Bay hotel is, however, not the only property in his Eastern Cape portfolio to be thrust into the spotlight.

Blaauwbosch Private Game Reserve and Thaba Manzi Game Farm have attracted media attention over issues related to management and payments.

On March 31, an elephant which had been damaging property and endangering lives after repeatedly escaping from Blaauwbosch – situated between Uitenhage and Steytlerville – was shot dead on provincial government instructions.

This sparked an outcry from conservationists, who said if the authorities had clamped down sooner after previous evidence of mismanagement, including not maintaining electrified fences and failing to address elephant herd dynamics, the shooting could have been avoided.

The Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism said it had issued warning notices to Al Otaiba regarding the management of both Blaauwbosch and Thaba Manzi.

A spokesman for Al Otaiba, Ahmed Elgarib, said Blaauwbosch had done all it could to prevent the shooting and contain the elephant.

There has been more trouble for the sheik related to his ownership of Thaba Manzi Game Farm near Humansdorp.

Jeffreys Bay attorney Fanus Heystek said last week his client, former reserve manager Jaco Bester, had still not been paid money owed to him in terms of a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ruling in a wrongful dismissal case.

The ruling awarded R155 000 to Bester for salary and leave owed. He was dismissed after tackling his bosses on the need for more money to maintain fencing and care for the game.

Johannesburg attorney Larry Davis, for Thaba Manzi management, confirmed this week that his client was calling for the CCMA ruling to be reviewed.

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