Just as the wider country was getting to know of Masa Square Hotel, which this week found itself thrust in the spotlight for its benevolence, the hotel is getting a new name next month, suggests new information from the hotel owners.
Masa Square on was the talk of the week after it became one of the first hotels to open its doors to detained travellers who were returning from high risk countries that have been reporting increasing rates of COVID-19, a strain of coronavirus, that has rapidly spread across the world since December.
Botswana which is yet to report a positive coronavirus case has moved swiftly to maintain the status quo, putting travel restrictions to high risk countries, and now quarantines returning travellers from the high-risk countries for 14 days. The travellers were left shocked on Tuesday when they were detained upon arrival, and taken to various places, including school hostels.
Those under quarantine immediately complained of the conditions they found themselves in, arguing that it exposed them to increased risks of exposure to COVID-19. Chiefly among the complaints was the indiscriminate crowding and unsanitary environment, going against the suggested precaution measures that call for social distancing and provision of safety wear.
The matter even reached Botswana’s high court, which ruled in favour of the urgent application to have those placed in quarantine be provided with a conducive environment that does not put them to risk. The over 200 detainees included citizens and non-citizens travelling from all parts of the world.
Forced with immediate instructions to provide a safer quarantine environment, government officials are understood to have scrambled to accommodation service providers, requesting help. Masa Hotel, located within the posh Central Business District (CBD), was one of the first hotels that were revealed to have agreed to host the detainees.
The news was met with mixed reactions, with the debate centred who should be responsible for quarantine costs. The other said maintained government had responsibility to ensure safer conditions to ensure that the virus does not spread, while the other argued that travellers have been warned not to travel to some countries yet continued to defy restrictions, thus should be subjected to any quarantine environment at the discretion of government.
The raging critics were only calmed down by revelations that Masa, together with other hotels and lodges have offered their facilities free of charge, with government only paying for the upkeep of the detainees.
While Masa Square Hotel became an instant household name, its owners, RDC Properties (RDCP), revealed that after a protracted tendering process, Three Partners Resorts, a subsidiary of RDCP, entered a franchise agreement enabling the conversion of the Masa Square Hotel to a Protea by Marriott Hotel, with the effective date set for beginning of April 2020.
“This will enable the hotel to benefit from arguably the largest loyalty program in the world. A substantial property improvement plan will need to be implemented,” said Guido. R Giachetti, Executive Chairman of RDCP, a portfolio investment and development company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange with nearly P2 billion of property portfolio.
This not the first time Masa square Hotel gets a new name. The hotel opened in Botswana in 2012 under the name Lonrho Lansmore Masa Square, with the then 153-bed hotel managed by Lornho Hotels, a chain of hotels operating in Southern Africa. The hotel later went under an upgrade in 2014, operating under Aha Masa Hotel, managed by Aha Hotels and Lodges, which manages chains of hotels and lodges in South Africa and Zambia.
The hotel located at the centre of CBD is facing stiff competition from nearby hotels that have set in the new hottest business address in Gaborone. The Hilton Hotel last year opened its first popular brand hotel in CBD, following in the foot of Room 52 hotel.
Besides changing its name to maintain vibrancy and stall competition, a conditional license to operate a casino in the Masa Centre was issued to an operator in December 2019, and this is expected to start contributing positively to the centre within the end of the year and consolidate the entertainment offering of the centre, said Giachetti.