Construction of Strand Hotel begins
Construction of the hotel has been on the cards since around 2008 when the old hotel was demolished, but work on the project had stalled after residents of the coastal town petitioned city fathers objecting to the massive size of the previous design which they said was out of scale and character with the Mole setting, and blocked access to the sea.
Construction of the hotel, initially set for July, started at the end of last month after a new design was approved. Bruce Hutchison, the Managing Director of O&L Leisure, a subsidiary in the O&L Group of Companies, told The Economist recently in an e-mail that construction of the hotel had unfortunately been delayed due to changes in the design which required re-submission for approval.
Hutchison said the new design will no longer have a cellar and they have made changes to the design of the parking space. The new design will see the construction of 135 rooms up from 87 luxury hotel suites announced earlier, three restaurants, three bars, a conference centre, a micro brewery, a deli shop, a beach kiosk and a public spa and fitness centre with a heated swimming pool.
Construction of the hotel is being financed through 60 % debt while 40 % of the funds will be injected from O&L operations.
About 1500 jobs are expected to be created during construction while around 150 permanent positions will be created once the hotel becomes operational. Meanwhile, O&L says it is “extremely proud” to say that trading results at its Mokuti Lodge and Midgard Country Estate have improved after a change in its business model. The two accommodation establishments were previously under the management of Kempinski who fell out of favour with the O&L management after the Kempinski model saw average room occupancy dip to around 30% from a historical high of 80%. Following the decision to part ways with Kempinski, Hutchinson told The Economist last year that average room occupancy rate had rebounded to 60% for Mokuti and mid-50s at Midgard. However, this week, Hutchison could not be drawn to give the current average room occupancy rate citing confidentiality reasons.