Montclair takeover bid: ‘We are still open for business’

ZIMBABWE’S tourism industry was one of the worst affected by Covid-19-induced hard lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, which forced hoteliers and airlines to shut down as the globe battled to stem the deadly contagion. Estimates in 2020 said domestic o

ZIMBABWE’S tourism industry was one of the worst affected by Covid-19-induced hard lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, which forced hoteliers and airlines to shut down as the globe battled to stem the deadly contagion. Estimates in 2020 said domestic operators suffered up to US$1 billion in write-downs after arrivals plummeted by 90%. The Zimbabwe Independent (ZI) spoke to Montclair general manager Brian Nyakutombwa (BN, pictured), the current president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, who hinted that post-pandemic volatilities are continuing to haunt domestic tourism markets. Here is how the discussion turned out:

ZI: May you shed light on reports about the hotel’s sale?

BN: As the saying goes, “everything has a price”. It is true that we have had several suitors expressing interest to buy the business, but as we speak, no deal has been concluded. The business continues to operate as normal and we are indeed open for business!

ZI: How would you describe the current operating environment highlighting the major concerns for hotels such as Montclair?

BN: We are operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment, which affects planning and ultimately business performance.

What it means for Montclair is that set targets and expectations get disrupted every so often but that state of affairs calls for greater agility and focus on the various factors that affect our business so that we adapt and take action faster to ensure business continuity.

The major areas of concern for a lot of businesses lie in power outages, exchange rate disparities and liquidity constraints, which give rise to volatility and uncertainty in trading conditions whilst also increasing the cost of doing business.

ZI: How was the hotel affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 and how has the recovery from the pandemic been?

BN: Like most establishments, the impact of Covid-19 was quite severe as we had to shut down the hotel and casino and send employees away at some point. 

But I am glad to say we managed to deal with the challenge progressively and we thank God that post the pandemic, we experienced a “rush” as organisations wanted to meet and conference to catch up with their business plans that had been stalled by the advent of Covid-19.

Resultantly, the hotel had outstanding levels of occupancy from the third quarter of 2021 and for the greater part of 2022, and we continue to witness encouraging signs of occupancy growth despite the temperamental environment that we are operating under.

ZI: How do you see the outlook for Montclair in the short, medium and long term?

BN: The business has a lot of potential to grow based on its ability to adapt to the challenges that I have alluded to as well as aided by a more stable and predictable operating environment.

In the short to medium-term, we anticipate adding value propositions that will enhance service delivery and value for money for our customers. And as we continue investing in persuasive customer experience projects for the long-term, we hope to establish Montclair as the hub of tourism and hospitality not only in Nyanga, but the whole of Manicaland.

ZI: What has drawn people to the hotel over the years?

BN: Montclair has a variety of activities and facilities that cater for the diversified market of holiday makers, businesspeople, conference delegates, wedding planners,  the sports fraternity, religious travellers and the education sector.

Facilities available include 85 en suite and modern rooms, an in-house Casino, the largest conference facilities in the Nyanga area, a tennis and squash court, swimming pool, and soccer and volleyball pitches.

The hotel also features a nine-hole golf course, which it runs in partnership with Claremont 21.

ZI: What place do you think the hotel holds for the tourism industry in Manicaland?

BN: The hotel serves as one of the biggest and longest-running hospitality facilities in Manicaland with a rich cultural heritage built over the years since its inception in 1949. It holds the potential to be an exciting one-stop mega-tourist destination catering to a diverse market.

And just like it has done over the years, it continues to support other downstream industries that operate within Nyanga like agricultural produce, vending and arts and culture, as well as many other players in its service delivery value chain within and outside of Nyanga.

ZI: What new developments are you working on and when should the market expect to experience them?

BN: Montclair has some very exciting value propositions on its planning horizon that are meant to excite the market, while catering for the diverse interests of travellers and holidaymakers.

The new projects include the setting up of an amusement park that will appeal to the adventurous, both young and old, and those organisations seeking team building facilities. There are also plans to put in place timeshare lodges within the estate.

The refurbishment of the hotel is work in progress and we look forward to completing the exercise in the next 18 months.

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