By Ntombi Mhlongo
There is a glimmer of hope for the thousands of livelihoods who were dependent on Pigg’s Peak Hotel as the government has struck a deal with a reputable South African company to revive the facility.
From being one of the Kingdom of Eswatini’s best hotels, the Pigg’s Peak Hotel is currently a shadow of itself as it has been run by amateur operators for a long time. As a result, the hotel has been making huge losses and draining the government which had been forced to bankroll it to keep it afloat and safeguard the jobs of its employees and the business opportunities it avails to several suppliers.
That being the case, the government has been looking for a reputable operator to resuscitate the facility and bring it back to its old self, hence the granting of a 20-year contract to one of South Africa’s leading hospitality industry players, Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) to turn things around at the Pigg’s Peak Hotel.
It is also expected that the company will help save the jobs of many emaSwati who have been struggling after the hotel was battered and bruised by both the Covid-19 pandemic and the political unrest.
The Eswatini Financial Times has reliably established that the company has signed a contract with the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini that will come into effect on April 1, 2023.
The signing of the contract was confirmed by both the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati and Pigg’s Peak Hotel and Casino Board Chairperson Sibongile Dlamini.
Transfrontier Parks Destinations is a hospitality industry player that operates some of the best tourist destinations in Southern Africa. It is expected to revive the hotel which has for some time been faced with financial challenges.
In terms of definition, a Transfrontier Park comprises two areas, which border each other across international boundaries and whose primary focus is wildlife conservation.
The company’s profile suggests that it is reputable as it is operating in Mpumalanga and the Western Cape Province.
Strikingly, the operator has won several awards in the tourism sector with the latest one being the World Travel Market in London in November 2022. Regarding the jobs question at the hotel, the Eswatini Financial Times has learnt that part of the agreement is that the staff will be taken on board by the new operator but this will be done based on performance evaluation by the company from the first year of operation in a progressive manner.
Regarding whether the takeover of the hotel includes the casino, the minister said the agreement as it stands, for now, precludes the casino.
“However, going forward the hotel and casino will enter into a separate bilateral agreement. Currently, the casino operates independently of the hotel,” reads part of a document prepared by the minister.
Based on its profile, the company appears well-positioned to add value to the hospitality industry as it is regarded as South Africa’s leading group focused on promoting community-based tourism and has become Fair Trade Tourism certified.
TFPD’s South African portfolio includes 12 community-owned lodges and camps, situated in geographically disparate and ecologically diverse locations. Its profile reflects that the lodges it currently runs include the !Xaus Lodge provides accommodation in the heart of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for eco-tourists and visitors to the Kalahari.
It also runs the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge which is regarded as the highest lodge in the Northern Drakensberg. The Awelani Lodge which is situated near Paturi Gate at the northern section of the Kruger National Park is also on the list.
Furthermore, the company runs the Nahakwe Lodge which offers event facilities and accommodation in the Limpopo Province. Besides the lodges, the company runs safari camps at various parks including Kruger National Park and Masebe Game Reserve in Limpopo.
According to its website, the TFPD is a consortium of like-minded associates who are business-oriented social entrepreneurs.
It boasts of being well-qualified with in-depth experience in finance, marketing, safari activities, and hospitality management.
“Working in Southern Africa’s Transfrontier Peace Parks and adjacent areas, we are passionate about the development of a viable and sustainable tourism industry that balances the needs of the local community with those of nature. Our commitment is to the creation of a sustainable business model that becomes an asset for the local communities,” it is stated on the website.
In terms of what exactly the company does, the website states that it develops and manages world-class, community-owned tourist destinations that benefit the local communities.
Meanwhile, the process of bringing the hotel back to life is evident in that the section which was burnt down during the civil unrest has been refurbished.
Challenges faced by the hotel were mainly felt during the peak of the Covid-19 era. It was revealed that the hotel did not perform well for nine months ending December 31, 2020. A loss of E1 912 256 was incurred by the hotel during the same period. The total revenue for the period amounted to E9.08 million compared to a budget of E16.44 million.