Grant Gillis and Guy Stehlik
Guy Stehlik, CEO and founder of BON Hotels, and Grant Gillis of Delta International Design Studio – a hospitality and retail design mogul – have joined forces to offer the South African, and moreover the African sector, their hotel design, architecture, refurbishment and asset management services.
After his recent move into West Africa, Stehlik recognised an opportunity in providing these countries not only with hotel management skills, but also advisory and consulting services on physical structure, design and layout of hotels. Having worked with Grant Gillis on various previous projects, Stehlik knew that he needed to harness these skills. “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.”
Grant Gillis has made a name for himself as the go-to-guy when it comes to 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 their 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 as 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; they stay in hotels across the world and expect a certain level of service and comfort. According to Gillis, in order to adequately service this market, hotels need to reach international standards.
“There are many little nuances you can use to create appropriate spaces for your given market,” he says, “and you can’t please everyone so it is vitally important to know who is using your facility so that you can design accordingly.” For example, if the hotel is very corporate-focused, then 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 e-mails, conduct a meeting or connect with other guests.
Green is still king as hotel owners realise the importance of sustainable, responsible building and procurement practices. Stehlik notes that many hotels are built without thought or technical assistance in the design and layout. Unfortunately non-hoteliers don’t build hotels with the same experience as hoteliers and many aspects need careful consideration, i.e. placement of the reception area, restaurant areas, optimal operational flow, furniture, fixtures and equipment, even down to selecting the 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.