StayEasy Pietermaritzburg on track to open in April

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Southern Sun's budget brand StayEasy is on track to open its seventh hotel in Pietermartizburg in April 2010.

The brand's niche is to offer travellers contemporary, affordable accommodation without unwanted extras. The hotel will be headed up by Anetta Maharaj, who has seven years' experience as a GM. She was most recently GM of Southern Sun's Garden Court Morningside hotel.

Maharaj says of her role in this new hotel: "We aim to inculcate a culture of closeness among employees. This will enable us to work together to meet guests' needs and to ensure that guests feel part of our 'family'. Delivering this level of service excellence means living and practicing our Siyakhanya values."

Siyakhanya is Southern Sun's internal programme aimed at the investment in and advancement of staff while conveying the company's core service delivery values to guests.

"Creating an environment where people are proud to work is the foundation for achieving this. I endeavour to empower staff to make informed decisions and be accountable. I always strive to facilitate knowledge acquisition by allowing people to learn through experience."

StayEasy Pietermaritzburg brings Maharaj back to her home town, where after completing her hotel management studies she started out as a receptionist of a top hotel.

Dhayalan Naidoo, director of operations for StayEasy, says the new hotel reflects the brand's aim to minimise the environmental impact of operations.

"As a hotel group, Southern Sun is acknowledging its impact in this regard. It is also measuring this, reducing its ecological footprint and deploying environmental action plans."

The hotel was designed and constructed with the environment in mind. The structure incorporates locally produced bricks. Solar power is used to heat water, reducing electricity consumption by some 50%. This is the second StayEasy hotel (after Emalahleni) to introduce solar heating.

Key cards control the lights, plugs, air-conditioning and televisions in rooms. Naidoo explains, "Guests have to occupy the room to turn the electricity on. This system negates negligent electricity wastage. Although we incurred a capital cost, the far-reaching benefits will outweigh this expenditure."

The hotel conserves water by using a grey water system, which collects storm water and redistributes it into the irrigation network. The gardens only feature indigenous trees. The hotel also recycles its waste.

"As a brand, StayEasy is establishing itself as being environmentally friendly, a strategy that rests on awareness, understanding and knowledge," adds Naidoo.

Each month the various hotels document their electricity and water consumption and waste production, to generate the property's carbon footprint. It then relates the figures, using the Heritage Carbon Calculator, to the number of trees that need to be planted to offset its carbon emissions.

The group works with Trees and Food for Africa, which undertakes to plant the necessary number of trees based on its calculations. At present, they need to plant around 70 trees. This process effectively makes the hotel operations carbon neutral.

However, Naidoo says environmental management is not only about offsetting emissions, but also about deploying sustainable policies that focus on processes. Southern Sun has consulted the Heritage Environmental Management Group for further policy refinement and audits.

"There exists a definite global movement towards responsible tourism. With a far-reaching footprint, we are implementing actions and working towards better understanding our own impact. At the same time we are managing responsibly and supporting local business. While there are financial spinoffs, we are more concerned about generating immense, long-term value in preserving the environment in which we and every organisation operates," Naidoo maintains.

Part of this initiative includes community involvement in local charities. StayEasy Pietermaritzburg has partnered with several sponsors to create a Drop-In Community Centre for children, due to open when the hotel launches in April.

The centre is designed as a haven for children of the local community. Children will have access to meals, homework supervision, social workers, Child Advocacy Centre, laundry, kitchen, play area, toilets and clinic.

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