Located on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town’s foreshore is a five-star hotel of international repute: the Westin. This obelisk of glass and steel is a mainstay of the city skyline, and offers tourists, cruise goers, and business visitors to our fair shores a luxurious, five-star place to stay, relax, play, and get pampered after a day of exploration and commerce.
But with over a decade of serving guests under its belt, the powers that be decided it was well and truly time to give this luxury hotel a multi-million rand makeover – and by “multi-million” I mean somewhere in the range of R150 million! That may be the bad news for the budget but the good news is that the décor and design transformation is remarkable and, from an aesthetic and functional standpoint, absolutely worth it!
We were able to appreciate this on our whirlwind tour of the Westin’s beautifully refurbished guest suites, as well as the Executive Club Lounge, the spectacularly luxurious presidential suite, and the Westin’s very own rooftop garden. First on the itinerary, however, was a visit to the desalination plant…
Reverse osmosis plant
In 2017, the city of Cape Town languished in the vicious grips of a devastating drought. Every household felt the effects of the severe water restrictions and was seriously considering an apocalyptic-type future of taps that no longer worked and kilometre-long queues at municipal water points. These messages of doom and gloom made headline news overseas, seriously impacting tourism.
Yet, beneath the foundations of the buildings on the foreshore, water from the ocean flows with the voluminous abundance of a river. Having been filtered by the rock and soil through which it has travelled, this water is remarkably clear and substantially less briny than seawater. And so the Westin Cape Town hotel, which has been pumping out around 1.2 million litres of water from its basement levels just to keep it from flooding, decided to reroute this quality water into a reverse osmosis system.
Saving 40 million litres of municipal water a year
I’ll save you the science of explaining reverse osmosis but suffice it to say that it removes the salt and other unpalatable impurities from the water. With a few additional purification steps in its system, the water is rendered wholly potable. R4 million and almost a year later, the Westin Cape Town Hotel has a fully implemented reverse osmosis plant that provides 400,000 litres of fresh water every day, 180,000 litres of which is used on site and the rest piped to its sister establishments, Tsogo Sun Waterfront and Tsogo Sun Cullinan.
Currently, the plant is in a testing phase, but it is operational and – get this – immune to load shedding thanks to generators. It’s also expected to save around 40 million litres of municipal water a year with no impact to the environment, meaning that no matter how bad the drought may get again in the future, guests at the Westin Cape Town Hotel will still be able to take a bath.
From the basement to the rooftop
After our exhilarating tour of the Westin’s basement-level plant, we took the elevator to the 19th floor and climbed a further flight of stairs to explore the rooftop garden, which supplies the hotel’s eateries. Here, they have employed a vertical planting system to grow just about every herb and edible flower I know of, and then some! The rooftop garden is a kalaeidescopic little wonderland secreted away from the more public spaces, yet is still accessible to hotel guests (guided by staff) should they wish to see it for themselves.
Having explored the hotel from top to bottom, it was now time to appreciate the fruits of R150 million worth of refurbishment by the Global Marriott International design team. And what better way to do that than with a good old fashion before and after room review?
A room revolution
So far, the Westin’s makeover has transformed 220 of its guest suites on all executive club level floors with the remaining 262 rooms being worked on floor-by-floor (to limit noise and disruption) until about October 2019. Our lovely hotel staff AKA tour guides showed us a room that was yet to receive its makeover and, whilst comfortable and fully kitted out, was rather uninspired and simply didn’t hold a candle to its transformed iteration.
“Our guestroom revitalization was designed to enrich and enhance our guests’ stay and experience whilst ensuring our offering remains competitive, modern, and uncompromised in function and aesthetic,” says Leon Meyer, General Manager of The Westin Cape Town.
What was faded, a little dull, and serviceable before has been transformed into a space that is utterly gorgeous, inspiring, and luxurious. The design is sleek, clean, and modern yet warm and comfortable, while the décor pays homage to the Cape’s unique natural heritage with fynbos artwork and inspired design elements. The improvements achieved in aesthetics, feel, and functionality here is nothing short of a revolution.
The Star of Africa
We finished up our grand tour in the presidential suite: the ‘Star of Africa’. Walking in to this luxurious and opulent space, I was hit by a hurricane-force wave of envy for every future guest who gets to stay here. The beautifully appointed suite is enormous with a lounge, dining area, walk-in closet, bar, and kitchenette serviced by its own butler. The bathroom – bigger than my bedroom – has its own sauna, a shower big enough for a baby elephant, and a view of Table Mountain that tourists would pay a fee to come see. The vast, snow-white bed in the bedroom literally faces the same view so that the first thing you see when you crack open your eyelids is our proud city icon.
Thankfully, our gracious hosts had laid out a lovely spread of canapés and cocktails to wash away the bitter taste of envy. These treats featured herbs and edible flowers harvested from the rooftop garden we had just visited. We were also gifted a bottle of the Westin’s very own wine label; a 2018 Chenin Blanc and 2017 Bordeaux-style red blend that I simply cannot wait to crack open.
It has been my experience that luxury hotels of the Westin’s scale – especially those that cater predominantly to business visitors, as the Westin does – can fail to embrace the design elements that bring warmth, individuality, and hominess to accommodations. This is not the case here. I’m happy to say that it feels as though every rand spent thus far on their extensive refurbishment has been well spent. The new rooms are re-energised, reimagined, reinvented, and utterly remarkable and, furthermore, the implementation of the reverse osmosis plant has ensured the hotels’ water sustainability and environmental consciousness in the coming years and decades ahead.
Let’s just hope the City of Cape Town is taking notes here!
The Westin Cape Town is home to the award-winning Heavenly Spa and the Thirty7 Showkitchen. For bookings and enquiries, please call +27 21 412 9999