On 27 March 2020 South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only essential services such as medical and military staff as well as retail outlets selling food and medical supplies had permission to continue operating.

Businesses had to close their doors, including hotels and accommodation establishments. But there were some that had to remain open to service existing guests along with those from other establishments that were unable to travel home due to varied reasons. One such place is Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, and here is a look inside a hotel in lockdown:

“We’re three weeks into lockdown with another two to go, and 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.”

The hotel was not taking new bookings for this period, but had become home to a number of guests from surrounding hotels and other establishments around the city. Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront also accommodated  other guests sent by their respective embassies when South Africa went into lockdown and they found themselves unable to return home.

Clinton Thom, General Manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, noted that every precaution was taken to ensure that guests were protected from the risks brought by Covid-19.

“We have strictly implemented health and safety measures as recommended by the World Health Organisation,” says Thom. “And while guests are free to walk around the hotel and treat it like their home, social distancing is practiced at all times.”

Carelse had nothing but praise for the staff who were locked down with the guests, who she said “have been absolutely amazing during this time”, taking a turn at doing everything from answering phones to cooking breakfast – even those not part of the chef team.

“Everyone who is here has volunteered to stay here for the entire lockdown period, and they have gone above and beyond to ensure that guests are looked after during their stay. We’re all wearing many different hats and no roles are the same. For example, all HODs have a chance to make staff breakfast, while our husbands and partners who have been able to lockdown with us here at the hotel are helping to take care of the grounds and the garden between their own work schedules.”

Hotel employees were constantly conceptualising new initiatives and ways to entertain the guests. They created a cosy library nook with a selection of books for guests to choose from, implemented a bingo evening for entertainment, created special menus, celebrated special occasions with guests – and more.

When asked about their lockdown experience, employees responded very positively.

“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.

“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.”

This may be a tough time, and no one can predict what the landscape will look like when we emerge on the other side, but for now the local hotel industry is continuing to impress with that warm South African hospitality that SA is known for.

  • As of 1 June 2020, Radisson Blu Waterfront is open to business travellers under level 3 regulations of the lockdown.