Whilst many industries suffered during the economic downturn, South Africa’s tourism sector has enjoyed a sustained period of buoyant growth. For Tintswalo Lodges Group, it has been an exciting period, with the business expanding on a combination of hard work and dogged determination.
Lisa Gooden, CEO for the past 4 years – and employee for 19 years takes up the story:
“We are enjoying growth at the moment and we attribute this to an upturn in the economy and a better marketing plan and staff. Face to face is our best marketing tool in an industry where competition is strong.”
The Tintswalo Lodges Group is one part of the family run business, which is also involved in property development through its sister company Tintswalo Property Group. Headquartered in Midrand, Johannesburg, the company currently has a portfolio of 3 hotels and 5 shopping centres, with plans to develop a further 3 retail centres.
“Tintswalo Property Group was established in 1986 as Century Retail Developments; Ernest and Gaye Corbett, the founders, primarily developed retail shopping centres in rural areas,” states Gooden.
“In each of its retail centres, the group has developed valuable assets of enduring quality and integrity. The family’s thorough understanding of the unique South African context and its core principles of financial feasibility and sustainability, combined with design and aesthetic vision, consistently make for sound property investment opportunities throughout South Africa,” she continues.
The group was joined by Warwick and Lisa Goosen (née Corbett) who together with Gaye and Ernest started the five star Tintswalo Lodge collection in 2003. The three five star lodges are Tintswalo Safari Lodge – in the Greater Kruger Park; Tintswalo at Waterfall – in Kyalami; and Tintswalo Atlantic – on Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Town. All three are individually unique in location and design, as Goosen explains:
“Yes, always unique locations. Tintswalo Atlantic is a prime example of this. The locations we have chosen are very key to the type of experience we want our guests to have. Atlantic being the prime example, set at the base of Chapman’s Peak drive, it is the only lodge on the Atlantic Ocean’s edge within Cape Town. It is within an untouched, beautiful reserve allowing guests the privacy to unwind and relax completely.”
Tintswalo Lodges started with the opening of the Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Manor House in 2004 in the Greater Kruger National Park, following this Tintswalo added to the stable the boutique hotel Tintswalo at Waterfall, situated 20 minutes from Johannesburg/Sandton CBD on the Waterfall Equestrian estate. The latest addition is the Tintswalo Atlantic boutique lodge.
Gooden says that the portfolio of lodges is 46 rooms, with each site offering stunning attractions:
“Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Manor House are set in the Manyeleti Game Reserve, well known for its open wilderness area with minimal vehicle density. One can sit in a game sighing for over an hour if needed, to watch and enjoy the habits of the wild life. This is also set between the Sabi Sands, Timbivati and the Greater Kruger National Park and there are no fences thus allowing a large variety of game to move throughout these areas freely and naturally.
“Tintswalo at Waterfall is a boutique hotel, situated 20 minutes from Johannesburg/Sandton CBD within a secure Equestrian Estate in Kyalami. It offers guests a feeling of being out in the country when they merely a few minutes’ drive from the city. The key attractions would be Sandton Shopping Centre, Magaliesburg Mountains and Hartebeespoort Dam.
“Tintswalo Atlantic is a reserved, private, luxury beach front lodge situated within the boundaries of the Table Mountain National Park. Two key landmarks being Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope, giving guests the chance to explore any area of the cape. Daily excursions to beaches, wine farms, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and trips up Table Mountain can all be arranged for guests.”
Of course global financial issues have impacted on custom, with Tintswalo luring visitors from around the world:
“Customer origin is very dependent on the property. The safari industry has a huge American following and in past years the UK also, but the recent global economic crisis has impacted on this. Both the Johannesburg and Cape properties are predominantly local but also attract plenty of American and Benelux support,” says Gooden.
Similarly, she says that the split between tourists and corporate visitors is dependant on the property, with roughly 80 per cent of Atlantic’s customers being tourists, whilst business travellers account for 80 per cent of Waterfall’s income.
To cater for the corporate visitor, each lodge offers wireless internet connections. Waterfall being more of a corporate hotel, offers full conferencing facilities and executive boardrooms, whereas Tintswalo Atlantic, although more leisure orientated, is able to offer exclusive board or executive committee meeting areas. All lodges of course are ideal for executive getaways and strategy planning sessions.
The company has just over 280 employees across the group and operates in-house training facilities which cover topics such as life skills courses and on the job skills.
“It is a major part of our ethos, we believe in ensuring our staff always has opportunity to better their knowledge and skills within their post and life,” affirms Gooden.
On the property development side Tintswalo currently has over 250 tenants under roof across its 5 shopping centres. Finding tenants has proved a challenge for property developers over the past 5 years but the company is enjoying growth, as Gooden confirms:
“Recently we completed the Nonesi Mall in Queenstown covering approximately 32,000 square metres. This site has been anchored by Pick ’n Pay, Woolworths, Checkers and Game. Predominately, we concentrate on projects with a size of around 25,000 to 30,000 square metres but we also give consideration to smaller developments.
“Tintswalo does it all. We plan, develop, quantity survey, project manage and provide architecture services, as well as managing the asset all in house.
“Operationally, srvices are always a challenge as well as the environmental issues around every site. We fortunately have a country where the retail sector is still expanding with groups like Massmart and Woolworths interested and invested in the countries expansion and the world works on inspiration and people aspire to shop!
“A well planned site with the correct ration of trading densities should not have commercial challenges, these we hopefully curb before we break ground to ensure less risk in any investment. Without any doubt we are seeing the construction environment improving. It has never been completely flat and the upturn is noticeable.
“We have a new centre planned for Kokstad and Zeerust and both will be out the ground late this year.”
Tintswalo is poised for a busy 12 months with these two projects, with Gooden predicting further opportunity:
“We will hold on our expansion of the hotels and focus on the retail centres as this is where we believe growth lies for our group. In the lodges our aim is to create a stability and consolidation of a very good value luxury brand, whilst in shopping centres side of the business we are planning for a steady orderly growth.”