The Head of Marketing at Cresta Group of Hotels, Patrick Chivese, has said his company is awake to the changing dynamics in Botswana’s hospitality industry.
He said in the overall these are exciting times to be in the hospitality industry in Botswana.
Chivese said over the recent past there has been an influx of new players, which have come into the market, a development that he said has resulted in cutthroat competition.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Indaba tourism fair organized by South African Tourism in Durban, Chivese told Sunday Standard that notwithstanding these new developments, Cresta is well placed to use its diversified portfolio to defend its position as the market leader of hospitality in Botswana.
He said Cresta Group has recently experienced competition in major centres like Gaborone and Francistown where new hotels have been coming up in significant numbers.
“In Botswana, 90 percent of business is government. We have lost some market as a result of lower rates charged by newer entrants. Our view, however, is that it is only temporary. As a company we are confident that we will be stabilizing very soon.”
He said the recent refurbishing of Mowana Lodge in Kasane has brought about a healthy increase in business volumes.
This, he said, is because after Mowana diversified its offerings to include spa and sauna, the upmarket lodge has been attracting new customers ÔÇô both regionally and internationally.
“We have now opened a new hotel in Mahalapye. And it has grown and consolidated our occupancy. In Mahalapye our target is to tap on business people going to do business in the region, especially at Mmamabula. Mahalapye is also the headquarters of Botswana Railways and our big conference facility has proved very handy for businesses around that area,” said Chivese.
Speaking about developments in Francistown, Botswana’s second biggest urban area, he said Cresta’s position as the market leader remains unassailable. In that northern city, Cresta runs two very premier hotels; Marang and Thapama both of which are among the city’s most upmarket landmarks in the hospitality industry.
“Cresta Marang is now being refurbished at P10 million. Mining has been the backbone of our success. And with new direct flight between Francistown and Johannesburg introduced by Air Botswana we have seen marked growth in our business. But of course as everywhere else there have been new entrants.”
While new entrants have no doubt put pressure on Cresta, Chivese says not only has his company retained its position, it also has grown more competitive.
“And as it is, the new entrants have been the ones following our pricing.”
But Cresta is far from being content with their dominance. He said they are assessing opportunities on the country’s western belt, especially along the Trans-Kalahari corridor where it is expected that if government goes ahead with the construction of the rail line joining Botswana to the sea at Walvis Bay, it will be a very busy economic corridor.
“Our view is that it is going to be very busy in the south. There is a big opportunity for hotels wishing to enter that area as there is presently almost none within that corridor,” said Chivese.
Cresta’s decision to enter the Zambian market as part of their efforts to diversify their market base has also paid off.
The Zambia operation, he said, has turned around the corner much sooner than they had anticipated.
“Our Zambia operation is very profitable. There is a lot of activity in Lusaka. That activity can only intensify with new direct flights introduced linking Lusaka and Johannesburg.”
He said after the Lusaka investment paid out much sooner than it had been hoped, Cresta is now raising their horizons to set up a new facility in the Zambian mining city of Ndola.
The intention, he said is to take advantage of the mining boom in that area.