30 November 2012

Namibia: 'Mole Belongs to Swakopmunders'

“WE’RE giving the Strand Hotel back to the Swakopmunders, we’re giving it back to Namibians.”

With these words O&L Leisure Hotels and Lodges’ freshly appointed managing director, Bruce Hutchison, introduced a new concept of the Strand Hotel to the media on Wednesday.

His brief to the architects of the new Strand, which will be built on the Mole, was that he wanted a “hotel that is a non-hotel”, Hutchison said.

The result is 33% smaller than the original proposed Kempinski Strand Hotel, which Hutchison described as a “monstrosity”. The new Strand will fit the brand values of O&L Leisure Hotels and Lodges, the new subsidiary created by Ohlthaver & List that will not only own, but also manage the group’s leisure portfolio after it severed ties with Kempinski.

Like Mokuti Etosha Lodge and Midgard Country Estate, the new Strand will be “down to earth”, offering a “distinct sense of place” and “professional and genuine O&L Namibian hospitality”.

The new hotel will “under-promise and over-deliver”, Hutchinson.

The interior of the hotel will be “residential and eclectic, nothing fancy”. It will be “gemütlich”, he said.

Instead of the ambitious, and very controversial, N$350-million Kempinski Strand, the new Strand will have 135 rooms, three restaurants, three bars, a conference centre and swimming pool, as well as a spa, gym, deli shop and beach kiosk. There are even plans to include a micro-brewery.

The Kempinski Strand, in the pipeline since 2007, got Swakopmunders’ hackles up with its 87 hotel suites, 28 apartments, a public spa and fitness centre, a heated indoor swimming pool and a public seafood restaurant. The development sparked an outcry from Swakopmunders, who said it would block access to the sea and obstruct views, and resulted in a petition with more than 2 000 signatures.

Hutchinson described the Kempinski model as a “beautiful girl whose legs are too short and whose torso are too long”. The new Strand, on the other hand, is a “chic who has got some style”.

How much the new Strand will cost, Hutchinson wouldn’t say. “It’s a tough job to make this thing work. It’s a lot of money,” he said.

The new Strand has to be inviting to everybody, regardless of whether “you come from the beach in your flip-flops”.

Construction is set to start next July and the hotel is scheduled to open its doors in April 2015.

Hutchinson said Swakopmund residents had the chance to view a model of the new Strand on Wednesday and that “most people” approved of the new design.

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