New hope for Fish River Resort as Mantis secures caretaker role

By Rob Knowles And Mauneen Charter‚ Talk Of The Town

The Fish River Resort will soon reopen after the Eastern Cape-based Mantis Collection secured a one-year caretaker contract to operate the former hotel and casino complex from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Fish River Sun‚ then owned by Sun International‚ opened in March 1989 but took strain after its gambling licence was transferred to Boardwalk Sun in Port Elizabeth. Ongoing land claims made by three Xhosa groups‚ the AmaZizi‚ Tharfield and Prudhoe groups‚ saw the hotel’s closure last November.

Mantis Collection director Carl Haller received the keys to the establishment at an informal handover held at the Fish River Resort on Friday. Sun International’s Mike van Vuuren‚ general manager of the Sun Boardwalk and former Fish River Sun GM‚ handed over the keys to Zama Memela‚ chief director of the commission in the Eastern Cape for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform who‚ in turn‚ handed them over to Haller.

"This is a one-year caretaker contract‚” Haller explained. “We would ultimately like to take a marketing and managing contract for a longer period but‚ at this time‚ we need to secure the property and slowly bring back some of the popular facilities available in the past."

Stenden South Africa‚ an international branch campus of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences based in the Netherlands‚ is also on board to provide staff training.

The Mantis Collection‚ led by Adrian Gardiner‚ also chairman of the board at Stenden South Africa‚ has marketing and management contracts with several hotels both locally and overseas. Haller highlighted the group's commitment to the development of local communities and conservation‚ saying this was very important to the Mantis Collection and Gardiner’s vision for the resort. Gardiner is known for creating the Shamwari game reserve near Port Elizabeth.

Once the land claim issue is resolved and ownership of the land is finalised‚ Haller said he wanted the hotel to benefit the affected local communities.

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