Spirit of Africa
With a proud legacy within the gaming, hospitality and entertainment sectors, Sun International represents a recognised superior brand with a diverse portfolio of resorts and hotels
While the business today operates as a defining name within the hospitality and entertainment sectors, the roots of Sun International can be traced back as far as 1969 and the formation of the Southern Sun Hotel Company. Over the course of close to five decades, this leading firm has evolved into one of South Africa’s largest tourism, leisure and gaming groups that incorporates a diverse portfolio of assets ranging from five-star hotels and casinos to premier resorts, such as its luxury Sun City Resort located within North West Province of South Africa. Further to its holdings within South Africa, Sun International entered into the Latin American market during 2008 with the development of Monticello Grand Casino in Chile. Over the subsequent years the company continued to enjoy great success throughout Latin America and developed a portfolio including the Ocean Club Casino in Panama and its Sun Nao Casino in Colombia. In 2016 Sun International also entered into a merger with the Chile-based leader within the gaming industry, Dreams SA to form the largest gaming company in Latin America.
Throughout its history Sun International has pioneered gaming within Southern Africa and first introduced casinos to the region during the late 1970s. The Sun City resort was established in December 1979 and at the time of its opening the resort comprised the Sun City Hotel (renamed The Soho Sun City Hotel in 2016) and the internationally recognised Gary Player Championship Golf Course. During the 1980s the resort expanded with the addition of The Entertainment Centre, The Valley of the Waves, The Cabanas, The Cascades and The Vacation Club. Finally during December 1992 the Lost City was opened at the resort, which included The Palace Hotel set in its lush 25-hectare Lost City gardens.
In January 2016 Sun International began an ambitious refurbishment of the Sun City complex, with a reinvention that aimed to create an experiential journey for the resort’s guests and visitors. The project was the latest of several development phases to be undertaken over a five-year period and introduces several new attractions including the Royal Baths adult pool for guests above 21 years old; an ‘always on’ party zone at the resort’s Sun City Hotel; and two new by-invitation-only high-end casinos at the Palace Villa and Palace Salon. The redevelopment project also introduced several fantastic new food choices, including the Bocado restaurant at its five-star Cascades hotel, which offers guests one of the most beautiful settings to enjoy vibrant Mediterranean dishes. The resort also boasts a new-look signature steakhouse, The Grill Room; the newly opened 24 hour Mugg & Bean at the Sun City Hotel that offers visitors a place to meet, eat and connect at any time of the day or night, right at the centre of the resort; and a microbrewery-themed gastro pub, The Brew Monkey, which offers spectacular views over the tidal pool, with a choice of sitting indoors or outdoors on the deck. The Brew Monkey menu features a selection of ‘monkey dogs’, gourmet burgers, snack boards and craft beers.
All the resort’s hotels have been refurbished as well. “At the time of its launch in 1979 Sun City was at the cutting edge of hospitality and entertainment, and while it has always remained a popular destination for visitors the resort’s decor and some of the entertainment and hospitality offerings needed a complete overhaul to bring the resort in line with millennium trends, technology and innovation. We believe that our investment has achieved that objective and more because not only does Sun City 2017 have a fresh face, it also has a refreshed entertainment, hospitality and conferencing offering that all our visitors – be they families, gamblers, convention visitors, adrenalin-seekers or eco-tourists – will find attractive,” reveals Brand and Communications Group GM, Michael Farr. “Probably the most important investment component is the R300-million (£18 million) being spent on a major revamp of the Sun City Convention Centre. This will effectively reinvent our offering – the focus of this refurbishment is a complete facilities upgrade to attract convention business throughout the week. We have invested heavily in this project in order to recapture our place as the premier convention venue in the country, which we are confident we will do. In addition, the Entertainment Centre, now called Sun Central, will have a suite of new experiences for the whole family and will be home to a South African Hall of Fame honouring the country’s sportspeople and performing artists.”
The restaurants found at Sun City are as varied and diverse as the accommodation and entertainment that are on offer throughout the resort, with a wide range of culinary options extending from fine dining solutions to fast food themed bars for guests to choose from.
With a broad cross section of visitors arriving at the resort all with different tastes and culinary requirements, it is vitally important for Sun International to cater to both traditional flavours and new food trends. “While fine dining will always be popular there is a global move towards more casual dining environments that still offer high quality dining experiences. Likewise, craft beer is also becoming extremely popular. We have witnessed the popularity of both of these trends at our Brew Monkey microbrewery gastro pub. Visitors are also showing favour towards authentic ethnic cuisine experiences such as those offered at The Shebeen, The Raj and Ying Tao,” Michael explains. “Another important trend is the growing awareness of sustainability. With respect to food, we are mindful of our fragile marine environment and the impact of over-exploitation of seafood and have partnered with SASSI to remove endangered fish species from our menus. To this end we are the only hospitality and leisure group in South Africa to commit to transforming all our restaurant operations that serve seafood.”
Beyond the obvious
With a strong portfolio of assets and an on-going programme of investment, Sun International represents an exciting destination for visitors and guests of all backgrounds and ages. The company remains keenly aware of global trends throughout the travel industry, which enables it to anticipate the global appetite for holiday options in terms of value, location and culinary requirements. This market awareness will prove to be a major strength for Sun International as the company looks to reap the benefits of its recent investments over the coming years. “Since the 2008 economic downturn, millennial travellers increasingly look for value-adding holiday packages – they want more than simply to spend a holiday beside a pool in an exotic location. Contemporary global travellers are drawn to travel that allows them to experience the essence of a region and Africa in particular has risen to the fore as one of the world’s great regions for experiential travel. In addition to the continent’s unique fauna and flora, it is steeped in history, heritage, culture, tradition and scenic beauty and visitors travel to the region to experience what they describe as the ‘spirit of Africa.’ Destinations such as Sun City, which allow travellers to go beyond the obvious to deliver a ‘360 degree experience’ of a region and are increasing in popularity,” Michael concludes. “Sun City’s competitive advantage therefore stems from Sun International’s global experience and competence in developing and operating casinos, hotels and resorts, while still remaining competitive in the South African market. During the next 12 months we will be focusing on the completion of the final elements of the Sun City upgrade, our interests in Latin America and the opening of our new casino in Menlyn, Pretoria.”