Despite a tough (to put it mildly) year for the accommodation sector, the Newmark group has continued to expand its footprint. With numerous hotels, villas and residences around the country and continent – including the Queen Victoria Hotel in Cape Town, Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, and Motswari Private Game Reserve in Timbavati – the group continues to add properties to its diverse portfolio. Next year February The Catalyst in Sandton will join the fold and The Rockefeller launches in Cape Town. Newmark has also acquired a stake in Unlock Boutique Hotels, a collection of 13 Portuguese properties that represent the group’s first foray into the European market.
The Rockefeller will be a trendy and glamorous sanctuary, with an on-site spa, all-day dining and deli, conference facilities, in-house DJ, rooftop pool and fully-equipped gym. The 207-roomed Catalyst will be Newmark’s first Sandton property, and is closely positioned to the Gautrain, making it an ideal business and leisure venue. Rooms are designed for both short and long stays, and facilities include conferencing spaces, full-service spa and a state-of-the-art gym.
We chat with Neil Markovitz, the CEO of Newmark, about the new additions to the portfolio, as well as how the group is appealing to the local market:
Newmark’s portfolio is quite diverse – what is it that defines a Newmark property? We always saw the advantage of creating a diverse portfolio but the important component was always the ability to cross sell vertically through the portfolio. Our city hotels are obviously bigger but the uniqueness of our lodges and reserves equally compliments and adds to the attraction of the portfolio.
What was it about the Rockefeller that appealed and how will it be different to other properties in the Cape Town CBD? The Rockefeller is a unique offering – massively contemporary, and somewhat edgy. We believe it is fairly “destinational” and think that the clientele it will attract will be younger, “hipper” and looking for something a little different.
The Catalyst is the first Newmark property in Sandton – why was it important to have a property in this market? We waited a long time to find the right property in Sandton/Johannesburg, to make our mark. It was imperative that the location be premium and not only do we see this being an attractive property to the domestic market – it will also be frequented by our international guests on their way up into Africa.
Why did you want to expand the Newmark footprint into Europe? It wasn’t a short-term strategy – but a relationship developed with a company in Portugal with a very similar ethos to Newmark. We spent 2 years talking before we consummated the deal. And we saw this as a great opportunity as our initial growth point into Europe.
With foreign tourists looking to be thin on the ground for the foreseeable future, have you adapted your offering to the local market? If so, how have you done this? I think everyone had to change direction and become a 100% focused on the domestic market. Yes, there was a fairly large price differential but the domestic market is also looking for value adds. So, we created and packaged a number of value-add propositions which have been well received.
Lastly, hospitality in general is a tough industry to be in at the moment – are there any ways that you are keeping morale up across the Newmark board? Once the Newmark core team got over the initial shock of this black swan event, we realised very quickly the strength and camaraderie amongst the team. As you can imagine, during lockdown all our meetings took place via Zoom which is not our preferred way of communicating. It has been a massively challenging 9 months and lots of ups and downs but there is a holistic belief and drive and lots of passion for this company and we will soldier on and get to the finishing line together.