Billions are being spent on developments in the Tshwane suburb of Menlyn Park. Liesl Venter looks at what is happening and the expected impact on the conferencing sector at large.
Tshwane has been waiting for the redevelopment of Menlyn Park with bated breath. “It is very exciting for the city,” says Bronwen Cadle de Ponte, chairperson of the Tshwane Tourism Association.
“The massive expansion and refurbishment of the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre – now one of the largest in the Southern hemisphere – combined with the investment in surrounding infrastructure and upgrades to, and modernisation of, surrounding neighbourhoods and business premises, has created a refreshing and exciting new economic hub of commerce, retail, business and leisure in the area.”
She says all of this has spurred on the development of meeting and hospitality establishments in the area, such as the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Menlyn, the Menlyn Boutique Hotel and Alpine Attitude Boutique Hotel, to name a few.
“The mega development of Menlyn Maine to the east of Menlyn Park is just as exciting and is set to become Africa’s first ‘green city’ – designed with an approach that takes the quality of the surrounding environment into consideration,” she says. “This precinct will also see another two hotels as well as convention and meeting facilities go up. With all of this development we have seen first-class companies and organisations moving their offices into the city or expanding their existing operations here.”
This, says Cadle du Ponte, provides a greater source market for the meetings and events sector in the city. “All of which means that we can expect exponential growth in terms of business events tourism in Tshwane.”
Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing manager of Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels, says with billions of rands being invested in the suburb it will undoubtedly soon be a commercial hub, although many of the benefits are not as yet being felt.
At a later stage, it is likely Menlyn will become comparable to hubs like Sandton, Fourways and Melrose Arch, and the area’s easy access to major highways and proximity to airports will assist, says Barenblatt.
According to Barenblatt, the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! conference centre has been trading very successfully with its location in Menlyn Park. “We have seen consistent demand from a robust conference and convention market that exists in the Tshwane area,” he says. The precinct in which the hotel is situated, Summit Place Office Park, also still has two phases of development under way. The next stage will include an 11-storey high-rise corporate office building with a conference facility on the top floor, a Jaguar Land Rover dealership and a three-storey office building with rooftop bar. The last phase includes residential apartments.
Impact on Tshwane
According to Cadle du Ponte, the redevelopment of the area brings new and exciting products to the city, increasing supply volume and diversity, which in turn will increase the demand.
“The new developments also stimulate healthy competition that will result in reinvestment and renovation of existing products, which ultimately will raise the bar across the city in terms of the quality and innovativeness of products our destination offers,” she says.
With talk of extending existing public transport solutions such as the Gautrain and Rapid Bus Routes to Menlyn, Barenblatt says, coupled with the availability of more accommodation in the area, they will all assist in establishing Menlyn as a new conference and convention destination in the country.
Challenges do exist
Marketing of the city brand, locally, nationally and internationally, still requires a lot of hard work and innovation, says Cadle du Ponte. “We need to be better at showing the world our diverse and high-quality offerings. We also need more local destination management companies and professional conference organisers to fulfil our existing potential and improve our rankings as a business tourism destination.”
Barenblatt agrees, saying, while there are good management resources and structures within the greater City of Tshwane, the city has been left behind a little in terms of development when compared with Cape Town and Johannesburg over the last number of years.
“But, the growth that we have seen in centres such as Sandton, Fourways and Rosebank over the last few years will start migrating across to Pretoria and the starting point will be in the east of the city,” he says.
Menlyn Park is proving to be the catalyst for growth and has already started to draw the big guns with a number of satellite offices for big name corporates like Santam, Sanlam, FNB, PWC, Deloitte, KPMG, opening up.
“All of this obviously bodes very well for conference and convention business in the long run,” says Barenblatt.