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No Apartheid Practiced : Johannesburg Hotel Open to All

April 06, 1986|PATRICIA CROSS | Special to The Times and Cross is a Marina del Rey free-lance writer and licensed real estate agent. and

Classified as an "international hotel" the South African designation meaning that all races are welcome, Southern Sun Hotels has opened its 125-million-rand ($62.5)-million) Johannesburg Sun and Towers hotel complex, a technologically advanced creation on seven acres.

The Sun and Towers configuration consists of the bold, 36-story, five-star Sun which is poised on a two-story base, complemented by the six-star, 20-story Towers.

The structures are integrated with a 3 1/2-acre ornamental park, creating a resort-like atmosphere in the heart of the city. A concourse lined with shops and restaurants connects the lobby where natural light filters through the roof by day, and by night a glittering chandelier creates a subdued effect.

The complex offers a number of technological innovations. Each guest room has a computer in the bedside console, connected to the TV and the hotel's main-frame computer.

The system provides 28 services, including pre-registration, automatic checkout, simultaneous conference communication with all delegates, and five-language capability. When humans enter a room or suite, the computer adapts the room temperature to the number of persons present.

Southern Sun Hotel Holdings Ltd., in conjunction with a consortium of investors, mainly Sage Holidays, developed the complex over a three-year period. It is the largest hotel complex in the Southern Hemisphere and brings to 52 the number of properties owned and operated by the company.

Last April, Sun acquired Holiday Inns Ltd. and its interest in 23 inns in the Republic of South Africa and Transkei; together with other holdings, this places it among the world's largest hotel chains.

In a commitment to participate in Johannesburg's urban redevelopment, the Central Business District (CBD) as it is called there, Southern Sun took a bold step by undertaking such a massive, sophisticated project. The move is perceived as even bolder in view of the fact that the group already had two luxury hotels two blocks away. According to Nigel Mandy, Johannesburg CBD chairman, "The future of the country lies in places that can cater to the diversity of peoples and needs. The CBD is multiracial, and nobody has any hang-ups about it any more."

Since Sun's hotels are "international" it was natural to team up with the CBD. According to the company's fact sheet, more than 40% of its management and supervisory positions are held by non-whites, and the company claims to offer equal-opportunity employment.

Architects Selsick Kinnear Mitchell and the design consulting firm of J-D Maresch Architects created a resort hotel in the center of town, complete with jogging track that winds among trees seven stories above street level, a lake, fountains, squash courts, executive health center, plus a centerpiece park. The pool deck is perched high above street level and the design guarantees sunlight virtually the whole day.

An unusual hotel amenity is the public library situated on the second floor, offering a section for people who want to browse while enjoying a beverage.

"Although it's not the easiest time to launch a hotel of this size, bookings so far, both locally and internationally, have been excellent. There are sound reasons for this," according to Bruce Hutchinson, group marketing director of Southern Sun.

"First, the hotel is unique in size, concept, amenities and Space Age facilities. Secondly, although there has been a considerable drop-off in overseas tourists, many foreign businessmen still come here, and they have been aggressively marketed. Thirdly, rates at the Sun have been kept competitive.

"Daily standard (single) rates are R125 ($68) and suites in the exclusive Towers start at only R165 ($83), including breakfast. Conference rates, including full breakfast, range from R60 ($30) per day. Our success in attracting conferences has been phenomenal."

(The prices are based on a rand value of 50 cents U. S., and may vary, depending on point of booking and conversion rate.

Construction of the project began Oct. 1, 1983, and was completed Feb. 1.

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