The Birchwood Hotel is the brainchild of 46-year-old Kevin Clarence and it is his commitment to his idea and its levels of excellence that have made it one of the largest conferencing facilities in the southern hemisphere. The hotel caters to more than 4500 people in accommodation per night and has venue capacity for up to 3000 people at any given moment in time.
“We can accommodate just about any event request which can include meetings, conferences, expos, banqueting and training,” says Clarence. “We pride ourselves on making each event as easy as possible and offer almost everything on site, including an in-house technical team, dedicated event planners, décor specialists and catering.”
In 1998, Clarence worked for the Grinaker building company on a project in the hospitality industry and learned a great deal about the technical aspects such as room rates, occupancy and lease agreements. He immediately saw the potential for growth within business tourism in South Africa and, together with his late father Brian Clarence, started to look for the perfect spot.
“We looked at three sites – Boksburg, Sandton and Nelspruit,” he says. “We chose Boksburg because of its proximity to the airport, the large industrial and commercial sector in the area, and the shopping and entertainment options nearby. We’ve never looked back.”
The hotel grew from 86 to 665 rooms and from two conference centres in 1999 to 60 mixed-use venues by 2019. Clarence loves improving the company and keeping it ahead of the curve.
“As a mega-business traveller hotel, my role is to analyse and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the business traveller and to make investment decisions in adapting or offering accordingly. I also oversee the general running of the hotel to ensure that we maintain our service standards in line with our values,” he concludes. “When we started, we had 12 employees and at our peak we have 900 employees – one of my biggest challenges is to ensure that our staff are happy and are on the same page. In saying that, I really enjoy helping people grow; many of our employees have worked their way up from internships to board level positions through their persistence and dedication to the vision for the hotel.”