Summer 2019

37 May19288 A European Luxury Boutique Hotel in South Africa’s Hidden Treasure The Days At Sea Beach Lodge is a diligently and creatively designed luxury establishment on the south coast of Durban, South Africa. Following their recognition in LUXlife’s 2019 Global Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards, where Days at Sea was named ‘Durban's Luxury Boutique Hotel of the Year’. We spoke to Dr Guido Schoeldgen who, along with his wife Annette Schoeldgen, owns the lodge. Perhaps belying its name, Days At Sea is, above all else, a celebration of art and creativity. Transforming a modest fisherman’s house into the luxurious establishment that has captured many a visitor’s imagination is no small feat indeed and speaks as testament to the talent at its centre – the talent that formed it into the marvel it is today. To begin, Guido speaks for a moment on the background of the lodge, and how they established themselves as one of the world’s best boutique hotels. “I am, primarily, an Artist and Photographer, designing multiple big architectural projects in Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa. My wife, Annette, is a Fashion Designer. When we came to South Africa in 1993 we bought a piece of land near Cape Town and built our first house. At this time, we lived and worked in Ibiza and were very much involved in the art and architecture industries on the Balearic Islands. “Our goal for South Africa was to live in Cape Town for the summer months and somewhere on the Indian Ocean during the winter months. So, we travelled the whole coast to find the right spot. Then we found the South Coast of Durban, with its fantastic natural environment and superb climate. We brought three prime pieces of beach-front land and decided to build a Boutique Hotel. We concentrated on contemporary art, the best food and wine, and Ibiza lounge music.” The rest is, as they say, history. Catering to the needs of the “upper market”, Days At Sea provides a truly unique experience in South Africa though its distinctly European feel and best in class hospitality. “We were five-star rated immediately, listed as one of the hundred most beautiful hideaways of the world and were recognised with a Lilizela Tourism Award three years in a row with the titles; ‘Best Accommodation and Service for a Country House in KZN’, ‘Best Five-Star Country House in KwaZulu-Natal’ and ‘Best in Tourism’.” As frequent travellers due to work, Guido and Annette rely on an expert, dynamic staff to deliver continuously on their original ethos and goals. “Annette and I have to be overseas several times a year. So, we had to educate and teach our staff on our philosophy. Thus, we can guarantee our guests our unique experience, whether we are at the property or not. “We spent lots of time on all issues of the hotel, making sure everything was – from the beginning – perfect. We brought in chefs and wine makers from all over the world. The staff learned by doing and were always checked by competent management.” Yet, there have, and continue to be, substantial challenges when it comes to operating in the competitive South African market, as Guido continues. “There are some issues we had to handle, as you cannot truly compare South Africa to supposedly comparable overseas markets. Our marketing had to be different in South Africa than it was in Europe. Despite this, we have been successful, as our bookings show. But, the drought in the Western Cape did some substantial damage. In KwaZulu-Natal in particular, political instability before the elections and the negative press about the region itself has made success difficult to maintain. Ultimately, we follow our own path when it comes to ensuring we continue to be successful in our market. In the most difficult times we took the opportunity to make extensive renovations of the Lodge.” This productivity and foresightedness looks set to secure Days At Sea’s success for the foreseeable future. In his closing remarks, Guido touches on the importance of developing and improving the lodge to exceed expectations. “The whole journey is an exciting one. We try facing the national problems by concentrating to make Days At Sea even more unique in design, service, food, wine alongside extensive staff training. Depending on water issues, and national hickhack we will grow further. Positive thinking and financial background is essential.” Days At Sea Beach Lodge Name: Dr Guido Schoeldgen Address: 39 Effingham Parade, Trafalgar, 4275, KZN, South Africa Website: Telephone: +27-39-3130013