The Most Vibrant Resort in the Heart of the Dynamic Cape Town: One & Only

Crowned by Table Mountain in the heart of Africa’s “Mother City” Cape Town’s most vibrant and urbane resort.

Interview with Richard Lyon, General Manager of One & Only

Richard Lyon, General Manager of One & Only

The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) is committed to creating a total of 225,000 additional jobs by the year 2020. From an operator’s perspective, do you think this is achievable? Are they still on track to achieve this?

I don’t really know from a macro perspective, I can only really talk about the operation that we have here. If you look at this as a business, we are a 131 room hotel and we employ 546 people. I don’t know what the number would be of people whose lifestyle and economy is aided by this business, in other words all of the suppliers that we have, the people who work on a third party basis with us etc. We are probably talking several thousands of people. So the more businesses like this that exist, the more chance there is for that sort of success. It is remarkable when you think about a luxury hotel like this, the number of people who are not actually employed by us but who are gaining a living from the business of the hotel i.e. tour guides, drivers, delivery people, shops within the area, etc. The list is endless. Tourism is a brilliant business. Even with the declining Rand at the moment, it is actually boosting tourism. What some people might view as a negative situation is actually very positive from an employment point of view in the tourism sector.

As a big private sector player, do you believe the priorities of the NTSS are adequate as a blueprint for the future of the tourism industry? This is a very niche, high end business but you must be engaged with the wider industry and your peers.

We tend to mingle with the other 5 star, upper scale operators because it is such a niche market as you said. I can only really comment on how we are affected by the policy and as I say, if we are doing 80% occupancy year round, things seem pretty good.

If we are doing 80% occupancy year round, things seem pretty good.

There were a rocky few years but current industry performance has been pretty encouraging in tourism and leisure generally.

Yes it has.

Overall, how much room is there for further growth and expansion in the travel and tourism sector in the Western Cape?

I believe the number of flights coming in here is important. The more coverage we get from different destinations is important. We see it immediately when a new flight from a new destination starts to come in to Cape Town. You immediately see an uptake from that country. Turkey is a good example, when Turkish Airlines started flying in here last year. Turkey is now becoming a good market for us.

How would you characterise the partnerships and interplay that exists between the public and private sector in South African tourism? For example with the governmental entities that support the tourism industry, is there a good level of communication and interplay?

Yes I think so. If you look at all of the different countries in the world, it works pretty well here. There is good cooperation, everybody has the same goals and the results speak for themselves. You will always have people saying that it could be better but I think that if businesses like ours are running at the level that we are, there has to be a lot of things that are working well.

One & Only Cape Town
One & Only

How proactive and aggressive is the One & Only group at targeting international tourism?

We are extremely proactive. The major countries are our usual suspects, so the US and the UK as well as the major European countries but because we are such a niche operator, we are looking for the top 0.1% of travellers from each country. We are now looking at Mexico, Brazil, India, Russia, China, Asia and Australia to name but a few. We have a very robust sales effort in all of those markets. Even though it is not going after a massive amount of business, it is going after the very select business that is there and that can work with us.

So low volume but high margin?


Where do you really want to ramp up in the coming years?

I think Asia. So more from China…

They have terrible problems with the visa.

Yes but that seems to be resolved now. Again, at the level of the market that we are operating in, it never gave us a significant problem because the types of people that were coming out of a country like China to stay with us had ways of solving that problem. There were people that would do things for them. If it was an issue for somebody to have to travel to go and get the visa from a different city, if they had enough money, everything was solvable.
India has great potential for us and when the Russian economy comes back, which it surely will, that also will return as a very strong market for this and other One & Only properties.

What are some of the specific values and services that you believe are especially attractive to international, high end leisure travellers and business travellers in the Western Cape?

Stunning beauty. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world; in fact I personally think it is the most beautiful place in the world. If anybody doubts me, they can just take a drive to Cape Point on a beautiful day and even if you have done it twenty times before, it will still take your breath away. I think that is the beauty of the place, the fact that the majority of the things that you do and see here, are to do with nature. You have some of the most beautiful vineyards in the world or you have Table Mountain or Cape Point etc. They are all just stunningly beautiful. Everybody should see them at some stage in their life.

To what extent do you think the One & Only group has begun to explore the commercial potential presented by the growing middle class in the global south?

Everything is cyclical, so all of the economies that are currently not doing so well will rebound and we are patient. If they rebound in two years that is great, and if it is five years then we will still be here. Just as there are always some countries that are not doing so well, there are others that are. Overall, business is very robust at the moment.

How damaging are things like the outbreak of the Ebola virus last year? We met with people like Brand SA regarding South African tourism and the overall perception of Africa amongst the international market was affected. For example Americans can be particularly risk averse.

It certainly did damage but the recovery was quick. The fact that Ebola was closer to Paris than it was to Cape Town didn’t really matter to some people, to the geographically challenged let’s say! In general, whenever there is a crisis in the world the recovery seems to be quicker these days. With all the turmoil that everyone has gone through over the last decade, the human race has become even more resilient. People just aren’t going to stop travelling. Travel is one of the most wonderful things in the world and the more people have more money, the more people are going to be travelling.

Do you have a specific message to the very high end business and leisure travellers?

Yes, come to Cape Town! For those who have not been here: it is the most beautiful place in the world. If you haven’t been here, it is just something you have to do.


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