Specialising in `handmade hospitality`, and offering unique conferencing experiences, Meetings SA discovers two distinctive boutique hotels in the heart of the Western Cape.
Ideally positioned to impact the business tourism growth point in the Western Cape`s tourism industry positively, the Devon Valley Hotel in Stellenbosch and Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa in Somerset West offer unique corporate and special event experiences. Both of these hotels are part of the prestigious Louis Group Hotels, Spas & Vineyards collection and are situated in locales attractive not only for corporate functions, but also weddings, book and product launches, and cocktail parties, to name but a few.
THE DEVON VALLEY HOTEL
The Devon Valley Hotel, recently awarded Best Boutique Hotel 2008 – South Africa by the AA Travel Guide and American Express at Indaba, is tucked away in the lush green Winelands region and snugly enclosed by its own working vineyard.
Louis Group acquired the property in 2003 and set about rejuvenating the landmark establishment, quickly boosting it to a four-star premium rating and attracting a steady flow of international and local guests. Location sets this hotel apart – surrounded by acres of landscaped gardens and offering sweeping views of vineyards, this is tranquil hospitality at its best. Other than breathtaking views, the hotel also offers decidedly practical facilities for conferencing guests:
- Seven air-conditioned venues, ranging in size and catering for a variety of conferences and workshops – up to 96 people can be accommodated for lunch or dinner events.
- All venues have ample natural light, for example large bay windows opening onto gardens and vineyards.
When it comes to food and beverage, the Devon Valley Hotel offers fine dining at its best. The hotel`s newly refurbished Flavours Restaurant serves contemporary Cape cuisine using the freshest ingredients, mainly harvested from nearby farms. “I also cultivate my own herb and vegetable garden on the hotel grounds,” explains innovative Austrian-born executive chef Markus Schwemberger, who is known to take a break from his frenetic pace by mountain biking and returning with a bag full of hand-picked, wild edible mushrooms to infuse his latest culinary creation.
A corporate adventure
The Devon Valley Hotel is surrounded by its own vineyards producing award-winning cultivars, lending itself to the obvious: wine tasting as an excellent teambuilding opportunity. Tokozane Sibeko, the hotel`s charismatic and knowledgeable wine ambassador, brings sharp insight and entertaining wit to any wine-tasting event.
Other teambuilding opportunities include:
- guided hikes through vineyard trails across four farms for a wine-tasting experience with a difference
- single malt whisky tasting – the hotel`s Cedarwood Lounge and Bar is home to one of the most definitive collections of single malts in South Africa
- cellar tours and tastings at neighbouring sparkling wine producer JC le Roux.
No tourism establishment is complete without its efforts to empower the community and build a sustainable business. And what of those currently underway in the secluded valley? “We routinely recycle waste, our hot water system is solar powered and the newly built Vineyard Rooms are equipped with an energy-saving device that automatically switches off all lights and air cons when guests leave their rooms,” explains Craig Seaman, MD of Louis Group Hotels, Spas & Vineyards. “We also sponsor various upliftment programmes for farm kids in the area, including a local primary school for underprivileged children.” The Devon Valley Hotel is the preferred venue for the annual launch of the John Platter Wine Guide. One of the hotel`s conference venues is called Platters and hosts various high-profile company workshops on a regular basis, evidence that this boutique hotel has a lot to offer even the most discerning of professional conference organisers (PCOs).
ERINVALE ESTATE HOTEL & SPA
A touch of Irish
A little further on from Stellenbosch is another historic town – Somerset West – home to Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa. Erinvale, meaning Irish valley, is steeped in history. However, its gradual transformation – from a modest Cape Dutch-style farmstead dating back to the 1700s, into the elegant four-star boutique hotel of today – has preserved the rich heritage of the property.
The six air-conditioned conference venues cater for a maximum of 250 guests, cocktail style, or 150, either banquet or gala style. All venues are naturally lit and are supported by the hotel`s experienced catering team, who operate the regal Magnolia restaurant and popular Irish-style Skelligs pub, both located in the Manor House.
The Erinvale Estate Spa, situated on the hotel property and operated by the Gingko Spa and Wellness Group, adds a relaxing component to any conference. All treatments offered are carefully chosen to combat stress, pollution and the discomforts caused by urban life. For PCOs putting together conferences of three or four days, any of the body care treatments, based on traditional touch therapy, make for great social programme additions where delegates can relax after an intensive day of workshops. Besides a range of beauty treatments, delegates could also make use of the steam room, heated pool and outdoor pool sundeck between workshop sessions.
Tee off for teambuilding
“Another unique selling point for the hotel is the neighbouring Gary Player-designed Erinvale Golf Course,” points out Erinvale`s GM, JP van As. “Golf is a superb idea for teambuilding. Another neighbour to the property, Lourensford Estate, offers wine, cheese, coffee and chocolate tastings for delegates at Erinvale.”
As for its green initiatives, Erinvale recycles glass, uses borehole water for irrigation and has fitted energy-saving light fixtures wherever possible. “These are admittedly small efforts, yet we are continually looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint throughout the property,” says van As.
The hotel`s old-world charm, excellent value-for-money amenities and variety of teambuilding opportunities within walking distance, make Erinvale a prudent choice for any conference or corporate event. And it`s said that its guests are always in good company – Erinvale has hosted numerous international rugby teams and the Western Cape Stormers.