South African business leaders cheered last December when the group of major emerging economies called “BRIC” changed its name to “BRICS.” That’s when Brazil, Russia, India and China invited South Africa to join their exclusive club, adding a capital “S” to the acronym.
Add in the
excitement and pride around the phenomenally successful 2010 FIFA World Cup
plus a 15% bump in visitor arrivals this year and you have a country bursting
at the seams with a newfound confidence and optimism for the future.
on growing opportunities with industries such as technology, winemaking,
tourism and shipping, an increasing number of business travellers from around
the world are landing in Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city. To host
the influx, Cape Town has witnessed a burst of brand new world-class hotels, a
new cutting-edge airport terminal and an increasingly sophisticated food and
Hotel: Elegant or edgy?
The 5-star Taj
Cape Town Hotel
opened in 2010 in the increasingly vibrant heart of the city, across the street
from the Houses of Parliament. Fittingly for business travellers, the new hotel
tower rises 17 stories out of the beautifully restored Reserve Bank Building
(which now serves as the lobby), offering guests stunning views of Table
Mountain or the city. Unlike many of the city’s other luxury hotels located on
the tourist-oriented V&A Waterfront, the Taj is surrounded by office
buildings, museums, gardens, art galleries and pedestrian malls. For some fun,
check out the adjacent Twankey Bar for occasional live music, a platter of
fresh Namibian oysters, a glass of Champagne or a nightcap.
on Orange Hotel,
which opened in 2009 near Cape Town’s central business district wows guests as
soon as they step onto the lobby’s ruby red and white marble walkway or when
they see the egg shaped Lucite chairs hanging from the ceilings or their
suites. Patrons at the hotel’s chic Murano Bar sit inside a two-story crystal
chandelier. But it is not all about the design. This five-star, 129-room hotel
offers business travel essentials such as complimentary wi-fi, flat screen TVs,
large desks, a full-service business centre and a boardroom-style meeting
space. If you tire of the visual overload, take a walk in the Company
Gardens, the popular public park nearby.
Do not do this!
Africa has a reputation as unsafe for visitors, do not let fear of crime keep
you in your hotel and away from experiencing the region to the fullest. While
central Cape Town is much safer than other parts of South Africa, it is always
smart to use common sense. Avoid walking alone at night (taxis are cheap and
plentiful). Keep cameras and mobile phones out of plain site. Do not accept
assistance from anyone at ATM machines. If you would like to explore outside
the city centre, like the Cape Winelands region or the Cape of Good Hope,
travel with organised tours arranged through your hotel.
Off the clock
A half-day trip
to the top of nearby Table Mountain is on nearly every visitor’s agenda. But
even on sunny clear days in the city, the top of the mountain can be covered by
fog (a phenomenon known as “the tablecloth” among locals.) Business travellers
with limited free time can steer clear of the tablecloth and take in a lot of
the region via a helicopter tour. CIVAIR, with charters departing the V&A Waterfront,
offers short flights around the city for as little as R575 per person. For a
dramatic bird’s eye view of the Cape of Good Hope (50 km south of the city) consider
the longer “full peninsula tour” for about R2400 per person.
to visit Cape Town’s buzzy downtown and waterfront areas, or they hit the
beaches in the summer. But if you want to see how a large portion of
Capetonians really lives, consider a “township tour”. Despite difficult
circumstances and poverty, township life is improving and you will encounter
vibrant, spirited and proud residents eager to interact with visitors. These
popular tours typically take half a day and can include a visit to a local pub
where you may hear some famous Cape jazz. Tours also stop by typical homes, schools and shops
where visitors are encouraged to spend money on locally made arts and crafts.
Inquire at your hotel about the best tours.
Cape Town food and wine scene changes dramatically from season to season, so it
is best to inquire at your hotel about the best spots to celebrate a deal,
impress a client or to simply sample the exotic local fare. Some examples from
various seasonal menus around the region include Impala tenderloin,
coffee-roasted warthog and Mozambican prawns seasoned with indigenous herbs and
spices at Le Quartier Francais in nearby Franschhoek. At
French/Asian inspired La Colombe in
Constantia you will find “medallions of pan-seared springbok served with fig
puree” or “a fricassee of prawn and veal sweetbreads with miso dressing”. At
the Bombay Brasserie, order
a local staple, sweet corn soup, topped with an Indian-inspired twist: turmeric
McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel.