By Elaine Woodbridge
Kopano Residence welcomes vacation accommodation guests to UCT. Photo: Michael Hammond
At the start of each vacation, residence staff get busy preparing for UCT’s vacation guests. They are UCT students who stay on during the holidays and commercial guests or visitors. Rooms receive a deep clean and maintenance check, and fresh linen is brought from the stores for commercial rooms. Catering staff prepare a new menu and student staff arrive to take up their vac hospitality jobs.
When outside guests start arriving, they are often in groups. Non-UCT guests include school learners, sports teams, exchange students, visiting academics, and families - all wanting to make UCT residence their home-away-from-home for a while. Phelokazi Mbebe, Acting Senior Coordinator of Vacation Accommodation, explained how it works.
What are the attractions?
Guests like UCT accommodation because of the beautiful setting with its mountain views and lovely buildings. Campus is a safe environment, making it especially convenient to walk to events anywhere on campus. UCT is also situated centrally, close to the Claremont shopping and business area, city centre and Rondebosch Main Road. Room and board are affordable compared to off campus accommodation. Commercial catering rates are R320 pp/pn for a single room and R475 for a double room as compared to around R500 for a single room off campus. Food is optional with 3 meals per day at the very decent price of R56 for breakfast, R60 for lunch and R66 for supper. A packed lunch can be arranged on special request. The comments book in the dining hall attest to many satisfied guests. Guests can use the UCT gym for a short-term membership fee. You can’t go wrong with central, affordable, clean and friendly accommodation at UCT.
The sports pool at Forest Hill residence may be enjoyed by vacation accommodation guests. Photo: Michael Hammond
All about the accommodation and facilities
Bookings are for a minimum of 4 days or 2 days for families attending graduation. Self-catering flats can accommodate children under 12 but catered accommodation is not suitable for children in this age group. All rooms have single beds. In catered accommodation with double rooms, the two single beds are separated by a partition, and partially private which makes them ideal for groups. Bathrooms are communal with showers and most rooms have a basin. Self-catering flats at Forest Hill and in other self-catering units offer flats ranging from 2 to 6 sleeper. Beds all have a clean sheet, pillow and duvet, and towels can be provided for commercial guests in catered accommodation. Dining is in a communal dining hall and many of these are beautiful, large rooms with tall windows.
A double catering room at Graca Machel Residence. Photo: UCT
Where will I be staying?
You won’t necessarily be able to choose which of UCT’s 18 residences you will stay at as it depends on which of them are undergoing maintenance during the vac, and on how many bookings were received. However, it will usually be in one of the following: Graca Machel, Kopano, Baxter, Fuller Hall, Leo Marquard, Tugwell, University House, or Varietas, most of which are on lower campus.
Forest Hill flats sleeping 2 to 6 guests are located on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. Photo: Michael Hammond.
How will I get around?
Public transport is not far away on the main road, and taxi operators are nearby. The Jammie Shuttle service is available for guests to use; it goes to all residences, or you can make a group booking if you need the whole bus. If you arrived by car, open parking is usually available.
The Jammie Shuttle used to hop between accommodation, Main Road and other parts of campus. Photo: UCT.
Opportunities for student staff
UCT’s vacation guests are assisted by friendly student staff, who assist with checking in and out and 24-hour reception duties. Student staff live in the vac accommodation residences during the holidays and know campus life well, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help, or directions to other venues on campus. This creates opportunities for students to work during the vac and learn hospitality skills. In fact you may see other students around during the vac as some stay on in residence for research, summer terms, graduation and supplementary exams.
The business unit
Accommodation Officer Shaqirah Taliep, Senior Coordinator Phelokazi Mbebe and Accommodation Assistant Chantal Burrick of the Vacation Accommodation Office. Photo: Elaine Woodbridge
The Vacation Accommodation office is part of Student Housing & Residence Life (SH&RL), in the Department of Student Affairs. The office is located on middle campus within the Commercial Enterprises unit in SH&RL. Vacation accommodation represents an important third stream income for the University and as such needs to be well managed. Incoming business originates with groups who use the facility annually and is often brokered by other UCT departments such as the Conference Management Centre (CMC) and faculties arranging accommodation for their visitors.
What plans does UCT have for vac accommodation in the future?
Manager of Commercial Enterprises, Peter Coode, and Acting Coordinator Phelokazi Mbebe have lots of ideas for enhancing the operation and the experience of guests. One thing they’d like to do is appoint an on-site manager during the vacation period, so that a person with some authority is always on hand for guests. Deals with tour operators would also make the service more attractive. On the practical side, a dedicated storage space for the considerable amount of linen and small appliances together with an inventory system would keep assets secure and make the bi-annual set-up easier. ‘I’d like to run it more like a 24-hr call centre,’ says Phelo ‘so that we can never miss a call’. A hospitality booking system would also make a big difference and enable better reporting.
Contact the Vacation Accommodation Office on Tel: +27 21 650 1050/1/2 Fax: +27 21 650 5597 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact the UCT Gym on Tel: 021 650 3564.