The Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) and Messidor Investment have been given the green light by the Hilton Group to go ahead with the construction of the P300 million Pula hotel. The Hilton Group were spurred on to give the development the go-ahead after they were reportedly suitably impressed by the mock-up room that was constructed to display the interior design of the rooms.
The Mock-up room was commissioned by the group to ensure that the look and feel of the new hotel would be in keeping with Hilton Hotels the world over for consistency. The Hilton Group also used the mock-up room to ascertain that the first Hilton Hotel in Botswana would meet their standard global brand.
It was revealed at a press briefing that the Hilton Group inspected the mock-up room and gave it the nod after making comments and suggestions.
“We have reached a milestone with our Hilton Hotel project following approval by the Hilton Group. The project now commences and we will be working to a strict schedule,” said Ms. Boitumelo Molefe, BPOPF CEO.
Ms. Molefe was accompanied by Mr. Victor Senye and Harry Fleetwood-Bird, both from Messidor Investment, the company that will be managing the project. Mr. Senye reiterated Ms Molefe’s words that they had reached a real milestone in terms of the development of the hotel.
“We have met the specifications by the Hilton Group through our mock-up room and they have approved the specifications, as they meet the set quality assurance standards. Through the mock-up room, we gave them a feel of the product. Now we have to pull up our sleeves and deliver,” Mr. Senye explained, before adding that following the Hilton Group’s review, the real work now begins.
The mock-up room will be demolished as construction commences in earnest. Messidor Investments has engaged GM Five as the main contractor for the development of the two buildings. According to Mr. Senye, the development consists of offices and the hotel, with both structures to be built concurrently. It was also revealed that the envisaged 4-star hotel would have 153 rooms made up of 6 suites and 147 standard rooms. Situated at the heart of the nation’s new Central Business District (CBD), the Hilton Hotel will attract business people on the move, while the addition of offices will add to their convenience.
The media was taken on a tour of the mock-up room to give them an exclusive view of how the hotel rooms would look upon after completion. During the tour, the process that went behind building the structure was also explained. Mr. Harry Fleetwood-Bird emphasised that they had to observe the Hilton Group brand standards so as to maintain synergy with rest of the Group’s hotels.
“The Hilton Group is strict on its brand globally, and they want to maintain the same look and feel. Even the sizes of the rooms are determined by the Hilton Group. This mock-up room has been designed to match the Group’s specifications.”
Mr. Fleetwood-Bird said that although it is a 4-star hotel, the materials to be used in the rooms are of the highest quality, which he said easily will put the new hotel on par with 5-star hotels. Mr. Fleetwood-Bird said the doors to be used are one of a kind and not readily available in Africa, part of the Hilton Group’s strict list of stipulations on maintaining consistency.
The hotel, which is expected to have been completed by the end of November, will feature state of the art technology that will make the hotel eco-friendly. There are also plans to push the boat out to ensure that each room is sound proof for the benefit of the guests.
“Of course with a project of this size, there will invariably be delays but we are fortunate not to have experienced major delays except for the recent rains. But we are in talks with the main contractor to push the schedule up, which might involve working at night,” explained Mr. Fleetwood-Bird.
It is expected that after the main contractor finishes the construction in November, the second phase will involve interior fittings and commissioning of the hotel staff. This is to be followed by the testing phase to make absolutely certain that everything is working accordingly. It is estimated that the process will take three months, meaning the hotel will be fully operational in early 2018, providing everything goes to plan.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fleetwood-Bird said by meeting the Hilton Group’s specifications, they have not deviated from BPOPF’s clear instructions, which stipulated that there should be strong citizen participation in the project.
“BPOPF is strict about citizen participation, and that involves buying locally. We have more than 300 citizens on site,” he said, adding that a balance had to be made in relation to meeting Hilton Group’s demands and those of BPOPF.
The 300 million Pula project was commissioned in 2015 after BPOPF signed an agreement with Hilton Worldwide Group. Around that time, it was announced that the 4-star hotel would be called Gaborone Hilton Garden Inn Hotel and that the project was to be managed by Fleming Asset Management. However, relations between BPOPF and Fleming Asset Management soured last year amid allegations of Flemming sidelining locals.
Matters soon took a turn for the worse when BPOPF cancelled contracts worth billions with Flemming on the back of a financial scandal that hit the company. There were unconfirmed allegations that BPOPF’s funds managed by Flemming might have been unnecessarily put at risk. Despite the fallout between the two parties, BPOPF agreed to keep Flemming as Project Manager.
However, the decision was short-lived, as BPOPF ultimately severed all ties with Fleming Asset Management, announcing that the Fund had been working with Fleming on transitioning the development of the Hilton to its property manager, Messidor Investment. At the time, Ms. Molefe explained that given the magnitude of the project, it was critical that the transition was as smooth as possible.
Messidor Investment, a joint venture between Botswana Insurance Fund Management (BIFM), Stocker Fleetwood-Bird and Haighs Investments, is a special purpose vehicle responsible for managing the BPOPF’s property portfolio. BIFM is a subsidiary of the financial giant, Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited. BIFM also manages some of BPOPF’s billions. Haighs Investments is a property development company managed by Mr. Senye, who is the former BIFM CEO. Stocker Fleetwood-Bird specialises in property consultancy, development and valuations. The company is partly owned by Mr. Fleetwood-Bird.
Botswana’s Hilton Garden Inn- Quick Facts
- The hotel is to be built by Group Five, a citizen-owned company, as the main contractor.
- There are 12 other domestic sub-contractors, nine of which are citizen-owned, while three are Botswana-based foreign-owned companies.
- The hotel, which will be located opposite iTowers at Gaborone’s CBD, will have among others; offices, restaurants, a gym, a pool and conference rooms.
- Upon completion of the office space, the BPOPF will be the first tenant to take up residence in the building.
- Botswana’s Hilton Garden Inn will be the 12th Hilton hotel in sub-Saharan Africa.
*Hilton Hotels has been operating for 90 years in 94 countries across six continents. Hilton Hotels currently has 4,300 hotels worldwide.
Reference: MmegiOnline, WeekendPost
Picture courtesy of e-spaces.eu