We chatted to Richard Lyon, General Manager of One&Only Cape Town, a luxury hotel at the V&A Waterfront.
How and why did you get into the hospitality industry?
That’s a great question and I don’t really have an answer for it. Nobody in my family was in the industry, but from the age of about 14 I never wanted to do anything else. I grew up in Cheshire in England and wasn’t a great student at school. I couldn’t wait to get to London to start my hotel career.
What sort of training and experience does a role like yours entail?
I personally think that coming up through the business, learning how all the different departments work and rely on each other, is a good way to go. It is a long learning process, but I’ve never regretted getting a solid foundation from the start.
What’s a typical day like at One&Only?
I am always here before 7am. I like the early mornings in a hotel as everything comes alive. It involves a lot of walking around the expansive resort and connecting with the team, having as few meetings as possible, and lots of “lobby time” to connect with the guests. I try to get away by 7pm to enjoy dinner and a daily debrief with my wife and a nice glass of wine.
One&Only caters for a discerning guest. Have you found the demand for high-end hospitality is increasing in SA?
Very much so. We’re an industry that, in the short term, the weak rand is helping and demand is at an all-time high since One&Only has been open. Also, we’re finding more interest from the mineral-rich countries of Africa, specifically Nigeria and Angola.
What are some of your career highlights?
Almost too many to mention. I’ve enjoyed meeting kings and presidents and rock stars and sporting legends. It’s a wonderful business which gives you access to a diverse segment of people, cultures and religions.
Where has you job taken you to? And what’s still on your bucket list?
My job has taken me to London, Paris, Riyadh, Cairo, the USA, Jordan, Hungary, Poland, India, St. Lucia in the Caribbean, and South Africa. I’d like to visit Brazil or Argentina as I’ve never been to South America and would love to go during Carnival.
What’s you favourite African destination and how would you sell it to someone who hasn’t been there?
I love Kenya, but my heart is now in Cape Town – the cultural diversity of the city, the dramatic history, access to first-class restaurants and legendary wine estates and, of course, Table Mountain, which is reason alone to come pay us a visit.
What’s next for you and One&Only?
2016 is likely to be our best year yet and will lead to further success in 2017 and beyond. We have a busy time ahead with our One&Only Spa set for a major refurbishment, as well as a comprehensive rooms decor make-over so that should keep me out of trouble for a while.