KZN could soon join the Club Med club
Plans are at an advanced stage for the North Coast to get South Africa's first Club Med
KwaZulu-Natal’s burgeoning North Coast is on the cusp of securing a luxurious Club Med beach resort as part of Tongaat Hulett’s ambitious new mixed-use resort town development at Tinley Manor, north of Ballito.
The resort is being planned on the secluded southern side of the Umhlali River, on prime land currently home to fields of sugarcane. It has direct beach access and overlooks the Indian Ocean. JSE-listed sugar, agro-processing and property giant Tongaat Hulett owns the land and is driving the development, with the support of the KZN provincial government.
While Tongaat Hulett has been silent publicly about Club Med’s involvement, it is understood that plans for the large-scale beach resort are at an advanced stage, with Club Med being drawn into the design process. The French-based luxury resort group has been eyeing KZN’s North Coast to set up a beach resort for more than a decade.
In fact, Club Med wanted to have a resort up and running before the 2010 Fifa World Cup, but envisaged beach sites at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and other locations closer to Ballito and Durban have faced environmental and planning bottlenecks.
Ostensibly dubbed Club Med Tinley, the resort in KZN would be the first Club Med in Southern Africa.
Club Med communications officer Sophie Reinach confirmed that the company was "discussing a potential Club Med project with Tongaat Hulett".
"The prospective site is located in Tinley Manor, KZN. The resort would be positioned as a family premium resort, with an Exclusive Collection Space. It would be opened year-round," she said.
Several sources in KZN business circles and provincial government confirmed to Times Select that Tongaat Hulett was in talks with Club Med, but said they could not comment officially on the French group’s involvement.Sihle Zikalala, KZN MEC for economic development and tourism, punted the Tinley Manor beach resort project at Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban last month, without mentioning Club Med.
Zikalala listed the resort as one of several major catalytic economic tourism projects planned in KZN over the next few years.
“Among the major tourism infrastructure projects in the pipeline are beach resorts and hotels, including Tinley Manor Beach Resort, valued at R1.2-billion, and Blythedale Coastal Resort, valued at R350-million, both of which are on the KZN North Coast. In Durban alone, tourism infrastructure projects to the tune of more than R50-billion have been planned. These include the major facelift to the Point Waterfront, which is valued at some R40-billion,” he said.
Tongaat Hulett was loathe to comment specifically on the Club Med resort plan when contacted on Wednesday. However, it sent a short statement on Thursday saying that Club Med was one of four international resort operators that have expressed an interest in Tinley.
The group said no formal binding agreements have been signed.
“We have not yet secured an investor to develop the resort and are currently in the process of soliciting interest. We can only formally secure both an operator and an investor once rights approvals are in place. These applications are currently underway at Tinley,” the company said.
“Given its connectivity and natural assets, the region is increasingly being identified by global resort and tour operators as South Africa’s foremost opportunity to compete with other global beach resort destinations … Tinley has solicited the interest of four significant international resort operators. Tongaat Hulett Developments are currently in the process of pursuing the development investment through an internationally recognised property advisory firm, JLL,” it added.In its latest financial results, Tongaat Hulett said that the recent environmental approval for Tinley Manor was an important new opportunity for the group. It said it had already sold a 28-hectare site and sales negotiations have commenced for 66 hectares, including 20 hectares for an “internationally branded coastal resort, the first of its kind in South Africa”.
However, in its response, Tongaat Hulett said the 28- hectare site that was sold in Tinley South was not sold to Club Med.
Meanwhile, details on the Club Med Tinley resort project have appeared on JLL’s website, but have since been locked. JLL’s site stated that the development would be the flagship resort in South Africa, with about 400 rooms and suites.“Club Med has a village network of over 65 destinations worldwide and is now looking to expand into Southern Africa. This resort will set itself apart as being the leading international standard beach resort in South Africa. The KZN coastline is ideal for a resort of this nature with its rolling hills, untouched beaches and warms seas,” the JLL site said.
Extensive details on the development, including the planned resort layout and artist’s impressions, are on the JLL website. It states that the resort will be a 4 and 5 Trident (Club Med’s own rating system) resort with expansive leisure facilities.Proposed leisure facilities at Club Med:
Club Med Spa;
kids’ clubs and pools;
gourmet restaurant and separate pool for adults;
outdoor dinning area;
convention centre; and
various water-based sport and multisport facilities.The plans indicate that Tongaat Hulett was looking to establish a full-scale beach resort, which Club Med is noted for developing in some of the most famed beach destinations around the world, like Bali, Phuket and the Caribbean.
Phindile Makwakwa, acting CEO of Tourism KZN, said while she could not comment specifically on Club Med, it was common knowledge KZN was targeting beach resort development to boost tourism. She said the province was working with Tongaat Hulett and other property players to lure investors and international resort operators to KZN.
“Beach resorts have been indentified in the KZN Tourism Masterplan, as part of a list of major catalytic tourism infrastructure projects, to grow international tourism to the province and SA. It’s a huge gap in the SA market that international tour operators from Europe and the US have been telling us for years. Plans seem to be coming together now and we believe this will be a game-changer that will put KZN on the international tourism map,” said Makwakwa.