St Helena luxury hotel boom on track as SA Airlink deal being finalised

2017-06-13 10:27
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Cape Town - After the government of St Helena announced on Friday, 9 June, that Airlink is the preferred bidder to fly passengers between South Africa and the island, an influx of tourists is anticipated and award-winning hospitality group, Mantis, have renovated three Georgian buildings to form a luxury hotel. 

Until the airport opened the only scheduled way to travel to and from the remote destination was aboard the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, which is likely to be decommissioned in 2018 once scheduled flights are established.

New luxury hotel

“We always seek to unearth the exceptional and St Helena is just that,” says Adrian Gardiner, founder and chairman of developers, the Mantis Collection. “Not many people have visited this fascinating, isolated part of the globe. Now, with the announcement of Airlink’s tender success, it will be so much easier to explore the island’s natural wonders, culture and intriguing history. Mantis is delighted to offer world-class hospitality to those visiting this unique destination, as well as employment opportunities to the islanders.”

SEE: St Helena chooses SA Airlink to service the island

The Mantis St Helena, will comprise 30 en-suite bedrooms, eight of which will be “heritage rooms” in the original buildings, built circa 1744, and 22 newly constructed “contemporary rooms”. Two terrace areas will cater for al fresco dining and cocktails, while a 60-seater dining room will serve cuisine of international standards. The hotel is wheel-chair friendly.

St Helena is 2000 kilometres from Africa, the nearest landmass, and boasts a variety of landscapes for tourists to discover.

St Helena’s mild, tropical climate, friendly people and unique culture are attractive to those looking for a unique, “unplugged” escape.

A variety of walks allows visitors to explore the island’s ecosystems, which range from cloud forest to desert. There are also good diving and sport-fishing opportunities. 

With hundreds of endemic species and impressive marine biodiversity, St Helena is on the United Kingdom’s list as a possible future UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St Helena is part of the British Overseas Territories and inhabitants of the 16km-by-8km volcanic island are English speaking; Jamestown is quintessentially British, with Georgian architecture, English-style Bobbies and red post boxes. The island boasts the world’s most remote golf course and most remote distillery. 

It is also of important historical significance, being the place to which Napoleon, King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo and 6000 Boer prisoners of war were banished.

SEE: WATCH: Remembering Napoleon on the island of Saints

New airport

While St Helena’s new airport on Prosperous Bay Plain has been open since mid-2016 for private aircraft and medical evacuations, the anticipated launch of regular commercial flights was delayed in order to establish which aircraft would be suitable for the airstrip.

Comair, winner of the original tender, had to re-evaluate its position after test flights with an 737-800 aircraft raised wind-shear and turbulence concerns for larger aircraft. As a result the tender process was reopened.

SEE: Delays drag on as St Helena opens tenders for commercial flights again

In January 2017, Airlink acquired Embraer E-Jets and entered their tender bid with a proposal for direct flights to St Helena.

An Airlink charter flight landed on the island, in May 2017, with 60 passengers who had been stranded in Cape Town due to HMS St Helena undergoing repairs. The Avro aircraft used for this flight had to refuel in Angola on the outward leg, and in Namibia on its return to Cape Town.

SEE: RMS St Helena to sail for yet another year

“This is a significant vote of confidence in Airlink and we look forward to the next step in the process leading to the formalisation of an agreement for what will be a historic step in St Helena’s development,” said Airlink CEO, Rodger Foster.

Airlink’s selection follows a demonstration of the capability of its newly acquired Embraer E-190 to land and take off from the recently built airport on St Helena island.   In April, Airlink also operated a special charter flight from Cape Town to St Helena.

“We anticipate being able to share details of the air service upon finalisation of negotiations with the St Helena Government,” says Foster.

Airlink’s new Embraer E-Jets are also suited to conditions at St Helena and, with a greater range than the Avros, present the option of supplying direct flights from South Africa to the island, and possibly to Ascension and the Falklands Islands too.

Apart from its South African destinations, Airlink already flies to Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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