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We Are an International Brand That Can Be Trusted

Marius Earle, General Manager Radisson Blu Hotel, Durban Umhlanga

As an organization that publishes an Afro-centric tabloid which essentially promotes African trade, we are resolute in our decision to continue attending and actively participating in all major trade fairs and conferences within and outside Africa. Consequently, we continually look forward to attending the annual Africa’s travel indaba in Durban South Africa being arguably one of the biggest travel fairs in Africa. We thank South African Airways (SAA) and Radisson Blu Hotel, Durban Umhlanga, for the partnership that made it possible for me as part of IWA’s team that attended this year’s edition of Africa’s travel indaba. Going by the wonderful experience I had staying at Radisson Blu Hotel in Durban Umhlanga for Indaba, I seized to the opportunity to chat with the General Manager, Mr Marius Earle.

Marius’ resume boasts of an operational and development experience in excess of 26 years in various aspects of Hotels, Resorts, Game Lodges, Conference Centres, and Casino management, working his way up the ranks in the Southern Sun-Tsogo Sun Group, which included being part of the development teams for various large projects including the Sandton Convention Centre, Monte Casino, Suncoast Casino and numerous other prestigious hotel and casino developments across Southern Africa.

From an operational perspective, Marius had the opportunity to gain management experience in a number of units across South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zanzibar, ranging from smaller units to the largest hotel in Africa at that time, with 546 bedrooms. During this period with Tsogo-Sun, Marius obtained his training from Wits University in Gauteng and also from UCT for Sectional Title Management, whilst with the Three Cities Group.

Employed by Three Cities Hotel Group as the Chief Operating Officer of the R1.2 billion uShaka Marine World, Marius was promoted to Group Operations Director (Board member and Shareholder with more than 35 properties) in 2009. After his tenure with Three Cities Group, Marius ventured into various business interests as a consultant in and around South Africa as well as also holding senior Group and Regional Management positions with several other Hospitality and Tourism entities.

Marius was also a Director on the FEDHASA and SA Chefs Association Boards, as well as that of several Resorts’ properties as Director and Trustee. Currently, Marius is serving as Board Director of the Urban Improvement Precinct of Umhlanga Rocks, Durban, South Africa whilst holding the position of General Manager of the newly developed property – Radisson Blu, Durban, Umhlanga. Below is the extract of the interview that IWA had with Marius.

IWA: Good afternoon, Marius. It was such a pleasure to have met you this morning, so let me seize this opportunity to thank you and your organization for accommodating me at your lovely property. I have enjoyed my stay so far and I am looking forward to enjoying the rest of my stay. The first question I will ask you is, how would you describe the marketing environment in Durban for Radisson Blu, particularly in Umhlanga?

MARIUS: The Umhlanga and Northern node of Durban desperately needed an International Brand’s presence, especially after the torrid Covid-19 pandemic period. As such, the Radisson presence was a welcome development and has truly taken the market by storm, hence resulting in extremely positive financial results for a hotel in its first year of operation. From an Industry competitor set comparison – the Brand recognition is so solid that the Average Room Rate/ Occupancy percentage points and Revenue per Available room, in general, have equalled or surpassed the comp set. The Radisson Blu Brand, coupled with a fresh, flexible, and modern style property catering to all market segments has assisted us greatly to achieve these positive results.

IWA: How long have you been in Umhlanga and what has the experience been like?
MARIUS: Personally, Umhlanga is home for me and I have lived here for the last 15-plus years. I have had the cause to move to other parts of SA during these years for short periods of time. For Radisson Blu Umhlanga, the property was opened on the 6th of June 2022.

IWA: How does the fact that Africa’s Travel Indaba is being hosted here in Durban affect the business of the hotel?

MARIUS: It has positively impacted our business. Radisson Hotel Group has a significant presence across the World, particularly in African countries. Having lived in Durban for a while, I know for a fact that the fair gives Durban/KZN as a province, the opportunity to showcase itself as a destination of choice, highlighting its potential and many benefits, which range from having an extremely friendly weather to being a beautiful coastline area, and from having stunning beaches to also having spectacular game reserves and numerous other world-class facilities. The Radisson Blu Umhlanga in my opinion, is like the icing on the cake for all these lovely offerings. This year, for instance, most of the hosted buyers for the fair were accommodated here in this magnificent and very flexible property.

IWA: Who are your regular guests?

MARIUS: As mentioned, we have such a flexible offering; this is because the hotel lends itself to all market segments, from corporate conferencing to leisure and pleasure, and from Inbound to sports markets. Our Multi-purpose conference and meeting spaces are also well sought after and very popular due to their size when compared to those of our immediate competitors, in addition to their flexibility.

IWA: What in your opinion, are the things you consider your major unique selling points?

MARIUS: Without a doubt, our conferencing facilities, because they are modern and tastefully designed. Our location is also a major factor, but first and foremost, is the fact that we are an international brand that can be trusted. Our Fire Lake Grill House and Cocktail Bar is one of only 8 in the world – this is a North American-inspired charcoal grilling concept as a main feature and centre of attraction. Another USP is that we are very well-loved by single female corporate and leisure travellers, as we are directly linked to the world-class Oceans mall that offers major international brands, and different types of restaurants; in fact, you do not need to leave the premises for anything you need. To cap it all, a short stroll to the beautiful Umhlanga beach is such a pleasure, and the views over the ocean from our pool deck and rooms make you feel like you are in Miami, and one might even put it as – Our own Miami, away from the Miami!

IWA: Who are your major competitors and why do you consider them your competitors?

MARIUS: We have numerous direct and indirect competitors- the immediate node Hotels and Resort being the obvious ones. Fortunately, our hotel is in such high demand all year round, with the Supply and Demand ratios being at a positive level.

IWA: What are the short and long-term plans for sustainability in the hotel?

MARIUS: As a Radisson Hotel Group property, we subscribe to various group initiatives and conform to International Brand standards. As such, our Responsible Business initiatives are vast and based on three pillars: Think Community, Think People and Think Planet. Having said that, we have several monthly initiatives which involve local underprivileged schools, surf lifesaving clubs, assisting local entrepreneurs in building their businesses; and of course, our staff initiatives.

From a financial stability and sustainability standpoint, we have such a strong International Revenue, Sales, and Marketing platform, which when combined with the locale and the property, have driven several initiatives. This is indicative of the fact that the Brand and Radisson Blu Durban Umhlanga have a very stable and positive future. We are also an employer of choice which provides the base for passionate Hoteliers to join the Hotel and Radisson as a group in their quest to enhance and build their careers

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