BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
CRESTA Hotels, the group that operates several hospitality gems in Zimbabwe and other southern African destinations, has expanded its footprint into South Africa through a deal involving the exclusive Cresta Grande Cape Town.
The firm did not disclose if it had clinched a management deal or if the transaction was an outright takeover of the hotel that is located at the heart of “The Mother City”.
But its announcement was a huge surprise, coming during a frustrating phase for global tourism following an intensification of the COVID-19 pandemic at some destinations and source markets.
The third wave has sent further shocks into an industry that lost US$1 billion in Zimbabwe last year.
Thousands of operators were pushed to the brink when governments ordered a ban on international travel and closure of hotels to prevent a contagion from March last year.
Perhaps Cresta might be leveraging on the bloodbath to snatch potentially lucrative assets in prime destinations, possibly at huge discounts during the difficult era, and nurturing them until boom times return.
It is a strategy that suits deep-pocketed operators.
Given the strategic location and profile of the hospitality group’s tourism gems in Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare, funders could be ready to take the gamble.
Cresta Hotels country director Chipo Mandela was not picking calls at the weekend.
“The Cresta Grande Cape Town is located in the heart of the city and within walking distance to most tourist attractions, large corporations, shopping centres, museums, Cape Town International Convention Centre, and restaurants and nightlife.
“The 242 newly renovated rooms have spectacular views of either the city, Table Mountain, or Lion’s Head,” said Cresta.
The multi-storey 242-room Cresta Grande Cape Town provides a fantastic launchpad from which to explore one of southern Africa’s biggest destinations, according to the hotel’s website.
Cresta operates the four-star Jameson Hotel in Harare together with Cresta Lodge and Cresta Oasis, which are all in Zimbabwe’s capital city.
This is in addition to Cresta Churchill and the magnificent Cresta Sprayview in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, respectively.
The expansion comes soon after regional airline Airlink recently announced its ambition to link Harare and Cape Town this year before flights were affected by a fresh wave of infections on both sides of the Limpopo River.
If this comes to fruition, the new route will be the latest of a string of new connections recently launched by the ambitious passenger carrier across southern Africa.
In December last year, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said one of the biggest developments for the US$2 billion industry this year would be Airlink’s launch on the new route.
ZTA acting chief executive officer Givemore Chidzidzi said Airlink’s flights would rekindle business and leisure travel between Zimbabwe and South Africa after many flights were grounded by the global health crisis.
“There has always been that desire to have the two cities connected,” Chidzidzi said.
“Direct flights between cities like Cape Town and Harare, and Cape Town and Victoria Falls bring convenience.
“The traffic is there and I am sure their statistics are showing that.
“The major attractions in southern Africa are Cape Town and Victoria Falls.
“And it will be good for those tourists who only want to look at the highlights of the region,” Chidzidzi said.
It means Zimbabwean tourists who choose to stay in a hotel whose culture is close to theirs would now have a choice in Cape Town.