Mervyn Naidoo



There have been significant operational changes over the past year. How has this impacted you as the director of the Western AND EASTERN Cape region?


Considering the lifespan of Sun International, it can be easy to get set in your ways and stop seeing problems or challenges for what they are – in truth, some complacency had crept in. I think a strong wake-up call came in positioning the Group for growth, considering our efforts in Latin America and aspirations in Asia. So we have had to get our house in order, in terms of revenue generation, costs, processes and efficiencies, and using technology to be smarter in our operations. We had to get the foundation right in our existing operations to win back our status as the leading gaming company in Africa. With the foundation in place we can focus on growth.

It has been a tough process, but I have found it reassuring that my team was ready for the challenge. In many ways, the previous structure, processes and policies were holding us back. With the change in operating philosophy in line with our new strategy, it is great to see the team playing in the same space without competing internally, taking up the focus on casinos, and taking on the challenge of the strategy. I say this cautiously, but it has been a smooth transition.

We are hard at work developing synergies and cross-marketing opportunities across casinos, hotels and resorts.



We are making fundamental changes to our marketing approach. How is that taking shape in your portfolio?


For one, we weren’t using our biggest asset – our database – to full advantage. More than 80% of our spend is now on direct marketing. We are targeting specific segments, such as high-spend, low-frequency customers, with specific interventions to promote extra visits and higher spend. It is part of the shift from marketing in tiers to marketing to behaviours. In tiers, you are locked into artificial levels, but we are now getting to understand the real drivers of customer behaviour – from proximity to a casino and drive time, to their preferences in entertainment. In particular, leveraging our recent significant investment in technology, we can track behaviour before and after an offer, and thereafter with incremental earnings potential and spend.

We are working with the centralised marketing team to identify what media will have the most impact in terms of brand, casinos and hotels. The strategic focus on gaming is shifting our marketing from a space where it felt like we were masquerading as something else, to being proud of who we are and what we do. It is important not to create misconceptions in the market about what we offer.

Cross-marketing is improving rapidly. We are running a shuttle between The Table Bay Hotel and GrandWest Casino, and are placing visible marketing collateral to cross-market gaming at GrandWest and the events and entertainment taking place at The Table Bay.

Besides ongoing work on our monthly property and Group events calendar, we have staffed our customer relationship management team and set monthly targets and budgets. They are already building and strengthening relationships – and after all, in our business, it all comes down to relationships.



Are you seeing a shift in the culture of your team?


With broadening the top management team, I believe the level of communication from a strategic perspective has increased dramatically. And with more direct access to the very top executives, I see a sense of accountability and ownership taking hold. The change in management style is more hands-on, with senior management prepared to set the tone and be held to that.

We are also being cautious in our approach to ensure that improvements are not “just a flash in the pan”. Although we delivered a strong performance in the last six months, we are implementing strategy and assessing progress on a monthly basis.