Confusion over Bingu Hotel operator contract


Government is still consulting on the management contract of the Presidential Hotel and Bingu wa Mutharika Conference Centre in Lilongwe which was initially offered to South Africa’s Peermont Hotels before Sunbird Malawi was engaged to temporarily manage the facility.

However, Sunbird Hotels Limited is likely to feel uncomfortable with prospects of the contract being on the market again since it has already ordered furniture and cutlery worth billions of kwacha for the facility which is just waiting shipment from South Africa.

Ministry of Tourism’s Public Relations Officer Chrissy Chiumia said Sunbird will continue managing the facility until a substantive operator is identified.

“As you are aware, the facility would have opened its doors in July 2012 and organisations and people had already booked the venue. So Sunbird is servicing those bookings as an interim measure while waiting for the operator,” said Chiumia.

She said an appropriate public announcement will be made when the consultations are through.

“And it will not be very long from now,” said Chiumia.

On Peermont which was reportedly rejected by Cabinet because of its alleged exorbitant operating fees after being successful with their earlier bid, Chiumia said the issue of the company is also part of the consultations.

However, Sunbird Hotels – which was to manage the facility for three months before and after the cancelled African Union Summit – is waiting anxiously for government’s decision on the facility as it had already invested in it without recouping its expenses.

Sunbird Chairman Leonnard Chikadya told the Malawi Inclusive Growth Conference in Lilongwe last week that his company has a consignment of 32 containers of various items for the hotel which are stuck in South Africa for the past six months.

Chikadya said this happened following the cancellation of the summit as the bank that was to finance the venture has been hesitant to proceed with the deal following the cancellation of the AU Summit in July, making the company unable to pay for the goods.

“The bank wanted us to secure at least one year contract to operate the hotel following the cancellation of the AU Summit, but up to now we are still waiting and the containers are stuck in South Africa,” said Chikadya.

Peermont Group Public Relations Manager Julie Van Wyk earlier said the company failed to sign a final agreement with government to operate the facility when it was informed in May by Ministry of Tourism that a local operator would manage the facility during AU Summit.

She dismissed that the company had asked for an upfront payment of US$5 million as operating capital, a figure that was said to have scared the Malawi Government off.

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