The History Of Tladi Lodge Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg

Eleven years ago Sylvia and I decided to have a complete change of career and to set up a guest house. We had both been in IT all our working lives and had travelled extensively around South Africa on business. We had grown tired of hotels and had switched to the more personal guest house environment. I enjoyed the hospitality of Harfield Guest Villa in Harfield Village (Claremont, Cape Town) on a regular basis and got to know the owners, Graham and Jenni very well. I got a lot of inspiration for the guest house industry from them and picked Graham’s brains extensively when we decided to set up a guest house.

Once I had the idea, there was no shaking it and I started hunting for the right property in the Sandton area. This proved to be quite a challenge. After putting together a detailed business plan, I realised that we would need quite a big property to be able to generate enough revenue. It is one thing setting up a retirement business by converting an existing family home when the kids leave home, but quite another when looking at setting up a new business venture that would generate enough revenue to put our kids through school and university. This is a venture that is not without risk when one considers the significant start-up capital.

After looking at a number of properties and not feeling very inspired, an agent contacted me to say she had worked with a large property in Sandown. Although it had been taken off the market, the owner might still consider selling it. At this stage, we were becoming so disillusioned with properties that we were being shown, we started considering building from scratch but were concerned about the time required. I viewed the property and phoned Sylvia straight away. I told her that I had found the perfect property, but that it was going to require a lot more money than we had budgeted for. She came to look at it and her simple advice was – “make a plan, this is the right property”!

After several months of hard negotiating with the seller and various banks, we finally got the deal together and took occupation on 1 April 2003 – our April fool joke on ourselves!

By this time we had decided that we wanted every room to be named after an indigenous bird. We thought to name the guest house after a bird, but found that most English bird names had been used to death. We then considered using an ethnic name for a bird but found that they are very difficult to pronounce if you do not speak the language. Then one day I was paging through a book called Vanishing Cultures of South Africa by Peter Magubane and forwarded by Nelson Mandela. I came across the story of Tladi (the Lightning Bird) and was immediately inspired to name our guest house Tladi Lodge. We liked both the fact that the traditional symbol for the Tladi is commonly believed to be the Cape Fish Eagle (hence our logo), and that the Tladi is associated with physical and spiritual fertility. (See our Home page for a more detailed description of the traditional beliefs).

Once we took ownership of the property we had a lot of work to do to bring it up to a 5 star grading standard. The property had been converted for guest house use 20 years prior to our buying it and had operated as a guest house for 10 years. Then for the next 10 years it was used by an airline as a base for their crew. By the time we took it over, it was in a ver run down state. We donated all the furniture to charity and then systematically redecorated every room. There was great excitement when we checked in our first guest about 3 months later.

We started running as a guest house as soon as 6 rooms were ready in the main house. We  were lucky to get started with a long booking for a legal firm. I was still installing the 6th TV when the group arrived to check in! It was only when they left that we realised that guests were not always going to just fall out of the sky and that we would need to do some serious marketing. Ten years ago South Africa was not all that internet wise and a lot of people referred to The Portfolio Collection when looking for a B&B or Guest House. We advertised in this collection for 2 years and attracted some nice corporate clients that still use us to this day.

Ten years later, Tladi Lodge Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg is a far more mature business. We are continually improving the buildings and the grounds. We still enjoy running the business and trust that our guests enjoy staying with us. We just make sure that we take regular holidays before too many of our Basil Faulty traits start showing themselves!

 Before and After Pictures.