College’s innovative B&B stalled by lack of funds

2009-12-10 00:00

COMPLETION of an innovative 25-room B&B, restaurant and conference facility, which will generate funds for the Umgungundlovu FET College and train senior hospitality students at the same time, has stalled owing to a shortage of funds.

College CEO Sipho Khuzwayo, whose office is directly behind the empty building which has a clear view over Camp’s Drift, says he is “disappointed and frustrated” at the stoppage, which could see the college missing out on accommodation demands generated by next year’s soccer World Cup, the wide range of other sporting events that regularly take place in the city, and the steady influx of government employees to the city for work.

The facility was also envisaged as a cutting-edge training ground for level-four hospitality students, who would be given the opportunity to run the entire facility as part of their training.

Khuzwayo is also keen to use the facility to train small business entrepreneurs and their staff in the catering industry.

He said a major impetus behind the project is a recognition of the importance of the education sector becoming self-funding.

“This project really can work. Pietermaritzburg needs two things urgently: accommodation and skills development for the youth. We can do both,” he said.

“Time is not on our side, but if we get the money now, we may be just in time for 2010. Unfortunately, we will miss the Dusi,” he said, referring to the famous canoe marathon which takes place in January.

“I get emotional when I think of the missed opportunities,” said Khuzwayo.

Although the structural work is 90% complete, escalating costs have put a stop to further work on the building, formerly a boarding establishment and dining hall, which sits on prime land overlooking Camp’s Drift within easy reach of the city, the University of KwaZulu-Natal campus and other major city landmarks.

About R5 million is needed to complete the project, which will include fitting the interior and furnishing the facility. Requests to a range of provincial government departments, including Finance, have thus far been unsuccessful.

Khuzwayo said he finds it “incomprehensible” that funding should not be forthcoming for a project that would certainly “pay its own way”.

He said calculations suggest that the minimum income from the B&B, based on a 70% occupancy rate, would be in excess of R1 million per annum, of which 65% would constitute a net profit.

Khuzwayo said he had recently been approached by a Durban-based company seeking an extra 3 000 beds for 2010.

Khuzwayo said the FET college would be receptive to partnering with corporate investors. “We understand that the recession has placed increased demands on government and we are sympathetic to their position. We are open to negotiations, within the parameters of correct procedures, with a range of investors,” he said.

Work on the B&B facility began in 2007, one of the final components in a series of construction projects which took place across all five campuses of Umgungundlovu FET College.

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