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Mpilo hotel shuts down permanently

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Bereng Mpaki | Nthatuoa Koeshe

LUXURY hotel Mpilo Boutique has thrown in the towel and is shutting down as a result of economic pressures inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The classy hotel is in the property division of business mogul Sam Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC).

Established in 2015, the hotel is now being turned into office space housing the Ministry of Small Business Development and Cooperatives offices.

MGC head of corporate communications and marketing ‘Mamotake Matekane this week attributed the move to high operational costs which had become “unsustainable” under the prevailing Covid-19 climate. The hospitality sector has been receiving subdued business since it relies on foreign tourists.

She said they incurred extremely high fixed maintenance costs when the hotel was closed due to the lockdown.

Local hospitality establishments are among the worst hit by Covid-19 as they have operated intermittently since March 2020 when the government imposed the first national lockdown. Only businesses regarded as essential services were allowed to open during the lockdown.

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted, hotels were only allowed to operate partially for limited times.

The hotel initially closed down temporarily last June at the height of first wave of the pandemic. At the time, the company sent home 75 employees and promised them first preference when the situation had improved.

However, when the situation seemed to improve, the second wave struck starting in December 2020.

“The decision to close business was made based on the impact of the nationwide lockdowns and the closure of national boundaries as most of our revenue comes from international clients,” Ms Matekane said.

“That coupled with the fixed costs we incurred in maintaining the ‘unoperational’ hotel for an extended period due to the second wave of the pandemic made it costly for the business to continue.”

She said the property has since been converted into business space. They have already stripped down the hotel interior to redesign it for offices.

Among other things, the ground floor café, lobby and bar have made way for cubicle offices. The fourth floor, formerly a restaurant has also been partitioned into offices.

The hotel rooms on the second and third floors will however, remain intact.

“We have decided to convert the asset to business offices in the meantime. This was a difficult decision. We have hired it out the Ministry of Small Business Development.”

“We have decided to shut down but will however, closely monitor the development of the Covid-19 situation and see what happens in a year or two for a possible reopening.

“Mpilo is a gem for Basotho and we are going to do all in our power to try and reopen in future provided the situation improves.”

The hotel this week posted a farewell message to its clients on its social media.

“Covid-19 has truly changed all our lives. This monster has taken our loved ones, affected our children’s future, taken our belongings, shut down our businesses and has completely destroyed many dreams.

“Mpilo Boutique Hotel could not survive this monster and today we officially say goodbye. It has truly been an exciting, fun, joyful and memorable journey. Thank you for your support and love, we have enjoyed serving you through the years. Preserve the good memories and always remember that we are the most resilient nation and this too shall pass.

“We pray for an end to this pandemic. We pray for wisdom that we may recover from this ordeal. The whole world will surely heal from this prolonged pain and suffering,” reads part of the message.

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