It’s national tourism month and the department of tourism is supporting tourist destinations and properties that opened this month.
One such place is the Graceland Lifestyle and Conference Centre in Hartbeespoort which launched last weekend. Owner and manager Mpho Mathope is a go-getter who also owns other getaway venues in the area and prides herself on giving tourists authentic South African experiences.
She has extensive experience in the hospitality and tourism space. After obtaining a degree in America, she returned to South Africa to develop hospitable spaces for South Africans to travel to and enjoy. It wasn’t an easy journey as she had to find the capital to pay for the site she had identified and to build the lifestyle centre. Mathope eventually got funding from a bank and her vision came to life.
Graceland is a wedding and wellness venue, with a chapel, conference centre and a honeymoon villa that houses about six couples as well as other villas, a pool and bar.
A wedding party can book out the honeymoon villa for privacy while preparing for the big day. Mathope has made sure the ambiance is hospitable; it evokes the feeling of a home away from home.
The venue doesn’t just cater to weddings. Mathope shared with us her vision behind the creation of the lifestyle centre. When she thought of the idea, she thought how a family could also enjoy the environment. We were lucky enough to be spoiled with a champagne breakfast cruise around the Hartbeespoort Dam, which is just a few minutes’ drive from the centre.
The Graceland experience includes manicures, pedicures and back massages. For fitness fans, there’s a gym. Part of the vision of the venue is that people who have medical or cosmetic surgery can book a stay for a few weeks to be looked after while recovering. This was put to the test when I indulged a bit too much at the opening gala and got sick. The staff and general manager of the lodge made sure I had full medical care at the nearby Brits Medi-clinic and I soon recovered. Doctors in the area aren’t situated far from the lifestyle centre.
The grounds are designed and maintained for wedding pictures and there are many spaces where a wedding party can take beautiful pictures. It’s on those very grounds where a projector was set up with chairs blankets and popcorn for an outdoor movie. Having only been to a drive-in once, this was what could be described as a delightful experience.
Children are also welcome, as Mathope herself has grandchildren and also wanted to cater for them. It’s often rare that venues geared towards weddings welcome children.
This is definitely forward thinking considering that for once children don’t have to be left with a babysitter when parents are attending a wedding.
It’s thriving businesses such as these that make me proud of the strides that women are making towards the betterment of the tourism industry in South Africa.
To book into Graceland:
- Address: plot 95 Visserhoek farm, R513, Brits Rd, Pretoria NorthPhone: 012 001 4021