Government ministers, tourism board officials and CEOs of a number of leading travel brands attended the event which celebrates the best in African and Indian Ocean tourism. Amongst the winners there were some familiar faces; a number of surprising triumphs and the ascension of several new stars of the industry. One name that has been a feature of this great spectacle for seemingly an age and since its first inception in 2000 has won no less that 30 separate awards including national, continental and global prizes is South Africa’s own The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas and Spa. It was no shock then that the luxury property swept to victory once again at the most recent WTA ceremony collecting a further three awards. The Saxon must now also be regarded as the clear favourite to retain its title as the world’s leading boutique hotel at the Grand Finale Gala on 14th November 2011 in Abu Dhabi for an unprecedented 11th year in a row.
In light of the hotel’s rather momentous recent achievements I thought that it was only just that I take a closer look at this award-winning institution of the African travel industry.
Nestled in the fashionable Johannesburg suburb of Sandhurst and within a stone’s throw of the city’s upmarket business district of Sandton; The Saxon has seemingly re-written the book when it comes to boutique hotel design. The property was originally conceived in 1990 as a private residence for renowned entrepreneur Douw Steyn but today offers visitors to South Africa an elegant yet unpretentious oasis of calm within the vibrant metropolis of modern day Johannesburg. It was the draw of this apparent intimacy and seclusion that attracted Nelson Mandela to the hotel during his famous stay whilst editing his now iconic ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ autobiography.
Set within an impressive 10 acres of private estate including extensive manicured gardens, koi ponds, terraces and scenic walkways The Saxon gives the impression of distinct rural isolation despite a conveniently centralised locale. The accommodation ranges from the attractive Egoli suites which offer a striking juxtaposition between chic modern and traditional Africa; European and Eastern artworks; the lavish presidential and platinum suites and the newly designed Saxon villa suites. This alloy of cultural inflections is the overriding theme of The Saxon where after several years an impressive collection of artefacts, works and crafts from across the globe have been gathered and now adorn the walls and beautifully abbreviate the hotel décor.
Equipped with a world class Spa and studio visitors to The Saxon can benefit from a dedicated and holistic approach to health and well being and experience one of any number of unusual and novel treatments. Sound therapy, rhythm massages, elemental massages and a range packages and facial treatments are just a small sample of the incredible portfolio of practices on offer. Complete with a hydro area, gym and nail and hair studio The Saxon promises a professional and comprehensive approach to complementary care.
The hotel’s eponymously named restaurant is renowned not only in Johannesburg but across South Africa as the home of innovative and delicious cuisine. A group of passionate and hard working kitchen staff maintain the standards of service and quality that are indicative of the entire property. Devoted to seasonal and organic produce The Saxon restaurant serves up mouth watering meals in a refined yet relaxed atmosphere. If guests would prefer a more private encounter parties are invited to relax in one of many secluded dining settings hidden around the hotel.
Greg Fox is a Director at luxury travel specialists Mahlatini.