Hotel library
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  • The Radisson Blu, adjacent to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront has remained open during lockdown, one of the few hotels allowed to do so.
  • The hotel has since become a central gathering point for guests from surrounding hotels and other accommodation around the city that have been forced to close.
  • Some staff have volunteered to stay during lockdown with the guests for the full period.
  • The hotel was identified during Cape Town's initial planning for the coronavirus pandemic, as a site to accommodate those affected by travel restrictions during the country's unprecedented nationwide lockdown.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

The Radisson Blu, adjacent to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, wasn’t German tourist Jörg Oberscheven and his girlfriend’s first choice of hotel for their stay in South Africa. 

It wasn’t their second choice, either. 

But when the hotel they’d initially booked was forced to close due to South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, and their backup plan was also cancelled, he had little choice but to walk up to the reception of the plush Waterfront property and request assistance. 

The two were desperate for a place to ride out Covid-19 travel restrictions, until the German government could repatriate them.

In an online review, Oberscheven said it was the first time he had arrived at a hotel as a “walk-in” customer with no reservation. But after explaining his situation to the hotel staff, they smiled soothingly and assured him they could help. 

The Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront is one of few hotels in Cape Town permitted to remain open during this period - and although they’re not taking typical reservations, they have enough staff on hand to assist those guests unable to travel to their home countries due to travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

See also: A South African wine farm allowed stranded guests to stay free of charge during Covid-19

The hotel was identified during Cape Town's initial planning for the coronavirus pandemic, as a site to accommodate those affected by travel restrictions during the country's unprecedented nationwide lockdown.

Empty hotel
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The hotel has since become a central gathering point for guests from surrounding hotels and other accommodation around the city that have been forced to close - and is also accommodating guests sent there by their respective embassies.

“We have strictly implemented health and safety measures as recommended by the World Health Organisation,” says Clinton Thom, general manager of the hotel. 

But provided guests practice appropriate social distancing, they’re free to roam the grounds and “treat it like their home”.

See also: Discovery members can now book into an 'isolation hotel' at a reduced rate

The five-star ocean-front hotel has an impeccable online rating. Alongside panoramic Atlantic Ocean views, it also usually offers such luxuries as a spillover swimming pool, in-house bar and restaurant, and access to a private marina. 

Under normal circumstances, and excluding any discounts, a standard room at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront costs about R3,200 per night. A superior room with a balcony costs R4,300. And the most lavish room on the price list,  a two bedroom, 110-square-metre suite that sleeps four, costs about R10,000 a night.

Pool upkeep
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“The overall mood is positive ,” says Nicol Carelse, guest relations manager at the hotel. “Everyone who is here did not envision this unfolding as it has but we are all in the same boat, so we’re navigating through it together.” 

She also has high praise for the staff, all of whom volunteered to stay in lockdown with the guests for the full period. Without a full complement of staff, they’ve shared tasks like cooking and reception duties that were otherwise outside of their portfolios.

“We’re all wearing many different hats and no roles are the same,” says Carelse. She says heads of departments have had to make staff breakfasts, while life partners who are also in lockdown with the staff are helping tend to the grounds and gardens.

Staff have also worked hard to entertain the hotel guests; they’ve created a library nook with a selection of books, organised evening bingo games, curated new menus, and celebrated birthdays and other occasions.

“For everyone, this really has begun to feel like a home away from home. Guests and employees interact with one another every day, and we have all grown quite close,” Carelse says.

Hotel grounds upkeep
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“This experience has really taught us about multi-tasking, but also about patience, kindness and great teamwork. We’ve really enjoyed bonding with one another over this time, and making the guests feel like part of our Radisson family.”

See also: Coronavirus | SA's hotel industry 'decimated'

Some of the guests, like Oberscheven, have since been repatriated by their respective governments, but the staff will remain there until lockdown conditions change.

Carelse says this ensures that there is reduced risk of Covid-19 contractions, and also enables the guests to bond with staff without having to meet a new team.

According to the staff, when time came for Oberscheven to leave, they exchanged numbers and have been in contact since they left.

“The farewell…” Oberscheven wrote in his review, “It was difficult! This is because we didn’t just have to say goodbye to the staff of any hotel. No, that day we said goodbye to family and friends. Thank you for staying with, and for us!”

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