Sun City revamp shows Sun International's focus

Cape Town - It is important for Sun International to have an assortment of offerings at its hotels and casinos in order to appeal to all generations, Michael Farr, group general manager for brand and communications at Sun International, told Fin24.

If, for instance, the aim is to provide for family holidays, there must be activities not just for children, but for adults too.

Farr emphasised that growing the tourism industry in South Africa is one of the best ways to create jobs. Furthermore, the tourism and hospitality industries are able to create jobs at a low skill level and add to economic growth.

Despite challenges, he is of the opinion that the tourism and hospitality industries could flourish due to the impact of the weaker rand to lure more foreign visitors.

In line with this strategy, Sun International is busy with a R1bn upgrade of its Sun City resort's four hotels and the entertainment zones. It 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, explained 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."

He admitted that 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.

Although the visa problem is now easing, it will take some time and he expects that with the new conference facilities open in 2017 the resort 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," said Farr.

A positive trend he is very pleased about, is the growth in visitors from China during the 2015/2016 festive season as the weaker rand appeared to help counteract the negative impact from new visa regulations.

“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," said Farr.

“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."

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