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The Beverly Hills


A message from Sol Kerzner, founder, former chairman and chief executive officer of Southern Sun Hotels

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to have been asked to be part of the celebration of the Beverly Hills 50th anniversary. The Beverly was the first hotel that I designed, built and operated in South Africa and the opening of the hotel in December 1964 was an important moment in my career in the hospitality industry.

The Beverly was a cornerstone of the Southern Sun Group, which I started in 1969 and which later became Tsogo Sun. It was also South Africa’s first new resort hotel to be awarded five stars and the property set a new standard for hotels in this country and was part of the foundation for the country’s tourism future. The hotel has proudly maintained its five-star status for its entire 50-year history and I attribute this in large part to the dedication of the hotel management and employees who were, and remain, committed to providing an outstanding service for all guests. I look back on the exciting times we had back then – setting new standards in the industry and working with a great team to establish and maintain the reputation and status of the Beverly Hills as South Africa’s first true luxury resort hotel. Employee turnover was very low and the team learnt the importance of delivering consistently excellent service and memorable experiences for our guests.

At the Beverly we always knew that “good enoughnever is” and that the customer was everything to us. I am delighted that the Beverly remains a five-star property today and is still clearly an important part of Tsogo Sun. I wish Marcel von Aulock and his capable team every success in the future and wish the Beverly another 50 years of success and relevance to South African tourism.

A message from Marcel von Aulock, chief executive officer of Tsogo Sun

For thousands of South African and international guests, the Beverly Hills is so much more than a luxury hotel; and the outpouring of memories that have come from its loyal guests since the start of its 50th anniversary celebrations are testament to the fact. For five decades, the Beverly Hills has been a place where memories have been made. It carries an air of grace and luxury, and there’ s something intangible about the hotel that strikes you the moment you enter the doors. “Something special” is hard to put into words, but that’s what the Beverly Hills is.

This is a hotel that is close to our hearts at Tsogo Sun. It was the first hotel to be opened by Sol Kerzner and was a core part of the group on its formation when Kerzner joined forces with South African Breweries. It remains as iconic to Tsogo Sun as it ever was, epitomising our brand values of passion, energy, variety, seductiveness andB leaders, and holding true to our promise of creating great experiences. As you page through this commemorative tribute to the Beverly Hills, there’s no doubt that exceptional experiences are the hallmark of our property on the rocks in Umhlanga – and we consider it a privilege to have been part of so many wonderful memories for the people who have been our guests for the past 50 years. In celebrating this iconic hotel we pay tribute to our guests and to the special moments you have allowed us to share with you. Saluté to the Beverly Hills on her 50th anniversary!

Home is where the heart iS…

Running a hotel he considers to be the genesis of the hospitality industry in South Africa is a rare privilege, says Beverly Hills general manager John de Canha. Debbie Reynolds reports

I meet John a few weeks before the grand lady celebrates her 50th anniversary, but anticipation of the prestigious event is already running high. There have been several celebrations throughout the year, but the one that topped them all took place
last night, with the Sun King himself in attendance. “It was here, at the age of 28, that Sol Kerzner decided to build a five-star resort hotel, which he named after the glamorous Beverly Hills in Hollywood,” says John. “This was the incubation for the industry – from Southern Sun to Sun International to Kerzner International, which includes the One and Only and Atlantis hotels… with this hotel Sol rewrote and revolutionised the hospitality industry in South Africa.” Having been passed the baton three years ago, John considers himself fortunate to be at the helm during such an auspicious milestone. “It’s special when you meet guests who are third generation,” he smiles. “Recently a guest told me a story about coming here as a little girl and getting into trouble because she ordered caviar from room service while her parents were at dinner. Then there are the captains of industry who cut their deals here and remember the exact table where it all happened.” What makes the hotel stand out, he says, is its generosity of spirit. Having worked in hotels all over the world, John is not just shooting from the hip when he says the Beverly Hills has a very special place in hospitality history.

The man who has been honoured with “Hotel Operator of the Year Award” in Durban, Johannesburg and Tucson (Arizona) grew up in Germiston in the then-Transvaal to parents who came to South Africa from Madeira. After finishing his schooling as a boarder at Marist Brothers’ College in Inanda, Joburg, and completing his compulsory military service, John was poised to join his father’s engineering business. “I honestly didn’t think mechanical engineering was for me, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do,” he says. “Thankfully, psychometric testing pointed me in the direction of the hospitality business.” His career began at Joburg’s five-star President Hotel with the Forte group, where he worked his way up to national sales manager, before working at the prestigious Hyde Park and Grosvenor hotels in London. His first experience of Durban was as general manager at the two-star Parkview Hotel, followed by postings to Amsterdam, the United States and Canada. Joining him on his travels was his wife, Cheryl, whom he met at the President Hotel where she was working as the GM’s secretary. “Because of visas and the like, she couldn’t work so we decided to start a family. The two eldest, Adrian, 31, and Celine, 30, were born in Amsterdam and Margeaux, 27, was born in Tucson.”

“We were and still are a very close-knit family, thanks to living in hotels in new cities and countries. My children certainly learned how to play on PlanetEarth by having to constantly adapt to changing environments.” In 1997 John decided it was time to come home and in April he took over the reins as executive director of Intercontinental Sandton Sun and Towers. “Working overseas gave me invaluable experience of the industry and of life, but I always knew that I wanted to come back and share that knowledge in our country.”

After steering the Sandton Sun and Towers, Airport Sun and the Palazzo at Montecasino, he packed his bags again in 2006 and headed for Dubai, where he was operationally responsible for Southern Sun’s first two hotels in the Middle East, the Al Manzil and Qamardeen. Three years ago, in October 2011, he arrived on the East Coast of KwaZulu-Natal to run the hotel where it all began for Sol Kerzner 50 years ago. “It has been an unbelievable journey of long hours, hard work, and huge opportunities, and I would unequivocally do it all again.” “To be successful in this industry you must love and want to serve. At the end of every day I always ask ‘have I added value to people’s lives? Have I brought people together?’ From kings, princes, politicians and business giants to swindlers and paupers …what a theatre! What a journey!”

The Beverly Hills – coming home

The Beverly Hills celebrated her 50th anniversary last night, and for those countless numbers of guests worldwide who return here time and time again… from the decor to the supreme comfort levels, it’s about that sense of coming home. There simply isn’t a soul around who doesn’t know the name Beverly Hills. It’s an integral, iconic part of the fabric of the greater city of Durban, and as the very first hotel envisioned by the legendary hospitality giant, Sol Kerzner, it was arguably
the first of its generation to offer a classic five-star experience which felt like home. Coming home means different things to different people, but one thing it always means is a certain comfort level which begins with the decor and design. Fifty years ago, of course, the decor at the Beverly Hills was very different from that of today, yet that thread of classic comfort has, and always will, run through it. Colours, textures, styles and trends change, but guests are never disappointed when they walk into their cabana and feel at home; walk into the lounge and that stylish chair isn’t just about= good looks… it feels good too. Beverly Hills’ guests have always had an expectation of superior service and exceptional comfort, and today, as yesterday, they know they’ll find it.

Fifty years doing what it’s always done, and done so well, is no small feat in the hospitality industry. This beautiful old building, standing sentry at the Umhlanga lighthouse, with breathtaking ocean views from most vantage points, owes its success, in part, to those welcoming layers of comfort exhibited in the curtains, carpets, lounging and dining areas. In keeping with international and local trends, the hotel’s decor may have changed considerably over the years, but, says design and decor consultant to the Tsogo Sun group, David Muirhead of David Muirhead & Associates, “We’ve come a long way from the days of blue swags and the original turquoise, blues andgreens.”

David smiles when he remembers himself as a regular guest at the hotel, years before he became involved at a design level. “For me, the Beverly Hills was always about that incredible attention to detail, the staff, the service, the decor. That gracious porte corchere, the welcome home.” For David, being involved in the decor of the Beverly Hills was a dream come true, and from the wrought iron detail and dolphin water feature in the foyer to the splendid mahogany piano, David was determined to retain “the personality” of the hotel – the reason so many guests wouldn’t consider staying elsewhere. The original florals and blues of the hotel decor gradually evolved into a fresher, cleaner, less floral look. The fabrics, too, shifted as much in textures and shades, as they moved towards longevity and less busy patterns – velvets and suedes, even PVC, reigned.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable decor changes was the transformation of the Cabin into elements cafe bar. David remembers it well: “Very dark timbers, rich carpeting, heavy panelling… it was time to open it up, lighten it and give it a fresh, contemporary, cocktail beach-bar feel. We took our inspiration from the inside of a shell, and the entire space was transformed into shades of white.” It was a little oasis in the Beverly Hills, indeed in Umhlanga, and became the
trendiest place for cocktails and easy dining. Modern sat happily side by side with classic, and the two complemented each other to perfection.

So, from 2008 to 2010, chandeliers were painted white, the grand piano lost its mahogany and went white, and the overblown florals gave way to simpler, earthier, often monotone colours like sand and leather. The cabanas, too, were transformed with classical, contemporary furnishings and furbishings – never flashy, always warm, quiet and stylish. Beverly Hills’ guests walk into their chosen cabana with confidence, knowing it will be as comfortable, calming and easy on the eye as it was when they were last there. Different perhaps with modern light-fittings, fresher fabrics and lighter colours, but timeless, like the expansive sea views. The Beverly Hills may be 50, but constant, often unobtrusive shifts in decor and style have allowed guests to walk right back into their comfort zone with a sigh of contentment at the familiarity of the surroundings. That’s what the Beverly Hills is all about.

Reference: The Mercury | 7 November 2014


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