The RMS St Helena is to feature as one of the “boutique cruises” promoted by the Mantis Collection, according to the UK-based Travel Mole website.
The site says Mantis has recently signed a deal with St Helena Government to turn Ladder Hill Fort into a five-star hotel. The island’s Sentinel newspaper has since reported that this is incorrect.
Mantis founder Adrian Gardiner, who spent a week on the island, is quoted saying: “We’re extremely excited to be marketing this iconic Royal Mail Ship, one of only two left in the world, as part of our growing portfolio of boutique cruises worldwide.
“This is the first of our exciting steps towards ultimately developing our very own boutique hotel on St Helena island.”
The Mantis Collection is a group of privately-owned hotels and eco lodges.
With thanks to Guy Gatien for passing on this story.
Gloomy attitudes to tourist growth on St Helena have been criticised by development staff Kirsty Yon and Merrill Joshua, after a visit to South Africa.
The Enterprise St Helena pair express their frustration in a report on a trip as guests of the Mantis Collection, the group planning to turn Ladder Hill Fort into a hotel.
They tell the ESH newsletter: “One aspect we both have noticed is how tired we are of the negativity on St Helena.
“We have just been reminded that the rest of the world has little time and tolerance for dilly dallying”.
Their “enrichment” trip involved visiting hotels and training schools, seeking new ideas that could be adapted for the island. One hotel school was already coaching students from another island group, the Maldives.
They also visited Mantis hotels in Cape Town and at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, as well as visiting the group’s headquarters.
A highlight was meeting a tourism official for the Galapagos Islands, which have many similarities with St Helena, including a highly sensitive ecology.
“Really interesting,” says Merrill. “We spent three hours discussing stories and comparisons of our two islands.”
People living in Ladder Hill Fort have been warned they may have to move out in two years, to make way for a hotel. Writer DOREEN GATIEN, now living in California, cherishes her memories of a barracks childhood. Click here to see a gallery
The headlines coming out of my beautiful island are not very warm and fuzzy. Airport dust is one thing, the introduction of mobile phones is another; the diabetes crisis is shocking.
But to hear that the Ladder Hill Barracks community will have to leave is very regrettable.
I have barely heard more than a whisper, so I am unable to sense how my fellow Saints feel about all of the changes. I just know that when I sit quietly and think about them, I feel pretty sad.
Why are the Ladder Hill community homes described as “poor-condition”? Is it because some of the people still light a geezer for bath water? Or because there is no front door parking or two-car-garage homes?
Not having all of this is what makes living in Ladder Hill beautiful. My family and I grew up there and will always be so very grateful for it.
My mother has lived there for over 55 years. She was the cook at the Government guest house, Signal House, just around the corner.
She is the oldest person there, and has really felt a sense of belonging, sharing in neighbours’ joys and sorrows, and them sharing in hers.
She lives in what one of our friends from England, who dropped by one day when I was visiting at home, called “a beautiful little cottage.”
Why does Andy Crowe, the housing executive, have to “assure the community” that they will get something “new and better?” Why would the Ladder Hill community want “somewhere better” to live, or “something new and better?”
The very reason for wanting to build a luxury hotel in the historic Ladder Hill Barracks is the same reason why it will be a day of great sadness for those who are forced to leave.
For all, there are fond memories of being able to stand at the top of Jacob’s Ladder with tourists climbing the 699 steps and collapsing at the top; memories of the war cannons sitting on the edge of the cliff, the war tunnels, the forts, the Colonnade with its long stretch of storerooms, Secondary Selective School, the telephone exchange, Signal House.
My mother is elderly, but still has the courage to live alone. But I know that with her cheerful and contented spirit, wanting something different is the least thing on her mind, which is why she still lives at Ladder Hill Barracks today.
People whose sub-standard homes could be taken over by tourists have been promised new and better housing. HARDEEP KAUR reports.
Families will have to move out of their homes at Ladder Hill Fort to make way for a luxury hotel and self-catering apartments.
The fort is currently the site of 21 government houses, and at least 14 of them will be affected – possibly all of them.
Discussions with tenants were sparked after the recent visit by heads of the Mantis Collection hotel group.
St Helena Government’s housing executive, Andy Crowe, assured them they would get somewhere better to live, possibly in the new low-energy housing project planned nearby in Half Tree Hollow.
He said: “It has always been recognised that Ladder Hill Fort would make an excellent hotel.
“We hope that out of this it will be winners all round: winners in the sense that we get the hotel that the island needs, and winners in the sense that tenants who are currently living on Ladder Hill in some in some quite poor-condition houses will end up in better properties.
“In the meantime, we are not going to turn our back on those properties. If there is work needs doing, even if it’s only going to last a couple of years, we will do the work.
“We will be consulting tenants individually over the next six months over what their needs are, where they would like to go, and who they want to live next to, because we don’t want to break up that community.
“We would rather just move the community.”
Andy said he was keen to involve tenants in the design of their new homes.
He also said the government would be giving “plenty of notice” of any developments.
He told them: “If anything happens, it’s going to be the best part of two years, so please don’t start packing or start worrying at the moment.”
Ladder Hill Fort has been chosen by visiting hoteliers as the ideal site for them to create luxury tourist accommodation.
Adrian Gardiner, founder of the Mantis Collection, said: “I think it’s one of the most exceptional sites I have seen in the world.”
He told radio interviewer Darrin Henry he would like to see it with between 30 and 35 guest bedrooms, and ten self-catering units, serviced by the hotel. There would be a breakfast room overlooking the sea, a small spa and a fitness centre.
“I’m hoping by the time we get on the ship we will have shaken hands on a deal that just needs to be put on paper.”
Mantis Collection chief executive Graham Moon said impressions of the island had been “overwhelming and positive.”
He went on: “I have travelled all over the world and the only place I can compare St Helena to is the Galapagos Islands, which are one of the greatest tourism products in the world.
“St Helena has this potential to draw people, but the existing tourism product needs to be aligned to what the airport will bring. I think we need to enhance the adventure, active and natural side of the island; the historical element is an added bonus.”
The heads of a hotel group that won five awards in the tourism “Oscars” have arrived on St Helena to investigate its potential.
The Mantis Collection was named World’s Leading Luxury Boutique Hotels Collection in the World Travel Awards 2012.
It also won top prizes in four other categories, including one for a Swedish hotel carved entirely out of ice, and another for its five-star White Desert camp in Antarctica.
The chairman, chief executive and colleagues arrived on the island on 23 January 2013, to see whether the island could fit in with its philosophy of “unearthing the exceptional”.
St Helena Government has been lobbying members of the Mantis Collection – made up of individually-owned companies – for some years. It said the visit was a result of a trade mission to Cape Town, led by Governor Mark Capes.
It added that a Mantis hotel on the island could bring a stream of high-value investment.
The group already has 30 boutique hotels in Europe, India, South America, the USA and Africa, including three upmarket Last Word hotels in Cape Town.
Its 23 “eco-escapes” include cabins in the Galapagos Islands and a tree-top hotel in Sweden.
St Helena’s natural heritage has been favourably compared with that of the ecologically-fragile Galapagos Islands, which may be an attraction for the Mantis visitors.
The group also has a commercial enterprise called Mantis Conservation, reflecting an interest in the environment in the areas where it operates.
The company is launching a new eXtreme brand in 2013, including the new Bear Grylls Survival Academy – another of its five winners in the World Travel Awards.
The new enterprise “aims to fulfill adventurers’ bucket-list dreams and give them the right to say ‘I did it!’” says the Mantis website.
Enterprise St Helena has assembled a portfolio of “opportunities” to show the visitors.
“They will also visit the airport site and participate in a variety of tourism offerings on St Helena, including sport fishing, dolphin watching, diving/snorkelling, the Napoleonic tour, the Boer Tour and a selection of walking tours,” said an SHG press release.
“It is hoped that the weather will remain favourable to enable the group to see St Helena at its beautiful best.”
Adrian Gardiner, founder of the Mantis Collection of hotels and “eco-escapes”, including private wildlife reserves, has travelled to St Helena after years of cajoling by island tourism bosses. But who is he?
In an article reproduced on the Mantis Collection’s website, founder Adrian Gardiner says his company’s mission statement is “conserving a vanishing way of life.”
That might go down well on St Helena, where many fear that the island’s unique and friendly culture might be lost with the arrival of its first aircraft in 2016, and the hoped-for birth of a meaningful economy.
The profile says he is best known for turning degraded farm land into Shamwari, the Eastern Cape’s first private wildlife reserve – with five-star comfort for high-paying guests. In the face of local opposition, he re-introduced the Big Five animals, including lions.
The article also speaks of his pride at creating employment for hundreds of local people in successive projects, despite a “smaller is better” ethos.
“We don’t want to be press 1 for reservation, press 2 for that, or 3 for that,” he says. “That’s not our game. Ours revolves around personal service.”
A comment about land being protected in the name of conservation – a controversial issue on St Helena – is intriguing, and suggests the island government may not always find him an easy associate. Evidently, it’s the manner in which it’s done that matters to him.
“I fight with our local government and it’s because they have 26 reserves in our area which they do nothing with,” he says in the website profile.
“If I was a neighbour living near one of the reserves that are totally useless and protected for just some wildlife which is not really being protected, I would be the first to break the fence down.”
He justifies charging very high prices for his safari holidays, saying, “There are no hand-outs from any conservation company or other organisation so you have to make your own money.”
He also says governments should reward conservation efforts through tax breaks and the like.
Given his criticism of South Africa’s national parks – somewhat more extensive than those on St Helena – his response to a question about people who can’t afford to see Shamwari and its white rhinos may seem contradictory: “They can visit national parks,” he says.