Guy Stehlik, CEO and founder of BON Hotels, and Grant Gillis of Delta International Design Studio, specialising in hospitality and retail design, have partnered to form BONDELTA, which will offer hotel design, architecture, refurbishment and asset management services to properties in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

After his recent move into West Africa, Stehlik recognised an opportunity in providing these countries with hotel management skills as well as advisory and consulting services on physical structure, design and layout of hotels. Having worked with Grant Gillis on various previous projects, Stehlik was keen to harness these skills.

He says: “Grant is at the cutting edge of megatrends in hotel design. We as a company strive to stay ahead of the local industry and Grant and his team will add huge value. There is already a degree of interest in Grant’s skills in Africa, most definitely in the retail space, and we intend to spill that over into the hospitality sector.”

Gillis has made a name for himself in designing retail and hotel spaces in South Africa and can be credited with various major projects, most notably Vodacom, The Jupiter Drawing Room, Blackberry, Planet Hollywood and the recent roll-out of Airtel throughout Africa. This bodes well for his experience in the African market as BON Hotels has also recently moved into this space. The new company will be called BONDELTA and will offer its services to the industry for new builds, refurbishments and re-design.

Gillis and Stehlik agree that Africa is crying out for a fresh look at design. Many hotels occupy prime space but have been designed and built without the expertise of a hotelier. The African market is largely centred on business travellers who are accustomed to travelling, stay in hotels across the world and expect a certain level of service and comfort. According to Gillis, to adequately service this market, hotels need to reach international standards.

He says: “There are many little nuances you can use to create appropriate spaces for your given market, and you can’t please everyone so it is vitally important to know who is using your facility so that you can design accordingly.”

Where hotels are focused on the corporate market, rooms may be slightly smaller, have an efficient layout and offer high-speed, complimentary Wi-Fi. The design of the public areas has changed significantly as guests seek out cool, connected areas to catch up on email, conduct a meeting or connect with other guests.

Hotel owners increasingly acknowledge the importance of sustainable, responsible building and procurement practices. However, Stehlik notes that many hotels are built without thought or technical assistance in the design and layout: non-hoteliers generally do not build hotels with the same experience as hoteliers. Careful consideration across the property is required, from the placement of the reception area, restaurant areas, optimal operational flow, furniture, fixtures and equipment, right down to choice of beds and linen.

The two anticipate more retro-fitting in South Africa than in Africa, where new builds are on the up. Stehlik says it is no longer acceptable to be mediocre – and decisions should be based on the most important person in the equation: the guest.

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