The streets of Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest township, aren’t known for their luxury lifestyle. But that is something Annette Skaap is trying to change, with the opening this month of The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa.
While township stays — in humble backpackers or private homes — have long been a fixture for international tourists to the city, Skaap is adding a dash of international glamour to the experience with her 13-key boutique hotel in the heart of Khayelitsha.
“Khayelitsha is home. It is where I grew up [and] my family is still in Khayelitsha,” says Skaap whose career in the airline industry was the spark for launching the hotel. “I was inspired by Bali and how it has been able to capitalise on selling its culture to attract tourists. I wanted to do the same for Khayelitsha. I wanted to bring the world to our culture, not to judge how we live, but to experience it while in it.”
And it is certainly a memorable base for exploring the township, the nearby winelands, or the beaches of the False Bay coastline.
Each of the 13 suites is decorated in an elegant, contemporary aesthetic that wouldn’t look out of place in a city centre hotel. Here, it is balanced by a touch of homeliness that adds a welcome dose of charm. Thankfully, there is no township cliché here though, allowing the hotel’s sense of place to speak for itself. There is a choice of room categories to suit both the price-conscious weekender and the corporate traveller on an expense account. A larger two-bedroom family suite includes a small kitchenette, and is well-suited for longer stays.
Key to the creation of the hotel was empowering local black-owned businesses, from working with local designers to murals created by young artists in Khayelitsha.
“Years from now, we want to leave a beautiful legacy,” says Skaap. “We have appointed a number of small- and medium-sized black- and youth-owned businesses to help us execute this hotel. Our staff is mainly from Khayelitsha, creating jobs and empowering the community in which we operate.”
Beyond the rooms, the hotel offers an impressive array of facilities, from a spacious pool terrace to in-house gym and spa. The on-site restaurant balances global dishes with a taste of Mzansi, dishing up everything from tripe to chicken feet.
Alongside international dishes “we have tailor-made African cuisine as part of the overall menu”, says Skaap. “We want international tourists to experience the African cuisine while the locals are made to feel at home away from home.”
Crucially, it is not only international tourists that Skaap wants to welcome to the hotel: “It is for those who want to escape their realities to gain a different perspective. It’s for Tom, who has never been exposed to the township, but has an uninformed opinion based on what he has heard or read. It’s for Jabu from Soweto who has never been to Cape Town and wants to experience Cape Town in its entirety. It’s for European and American tourists who want to experience Africa and its townships and rituals.”
To that end The Spade also encourages travellers to get out and explore, with suggested lists of local galleries, restaurants and taverns best explored on a cycling tour.
“Plus, we are in the process of collaborating with other businesses in the hospitality industry in Khayelitsha, to offer a full Khayelitsha ‘Kasi’ experience,” says Skaap.