The Dream Maker
Hotelier Liz Biden is the co-owner and creative force behind the Royal Portfolio, a collection of three luxury resorts in South Africa. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, Phil. She has three children and four grandchildren.
“Considering i had no hotel experience when i started out, it’s all gone rather well. I used to run a fashion business, but sold it 13 years ago and decided to turn my own holiday homes into hotels.
We have Royal Malewane, a beautiful safari lodge in the Greater Kruger Park; a beach house in Hermanus called Birkenhead House, and then there’s La Residence, a luxurious mountain retreat in the winelands. My husband, Phil, has worked in finance for many years and is our only backer. Without him, i wouldn’t be successful because he sorts all the finances and bookings so i don’t have to worry about them. I’m free to do all the nice bits.
I love that we have such loyal guests, who return again and again to celebrate their special occasions – or just life! I have a banker from London who’s been to Royal Malewane 27 times. His tenth and twentieth visit were free and his thirtieth will be too. It’s the least we can do! The lodge is very popular with celebrities too. One flamboyant gentleman books out the whole place for ten days at a time and brings all his friends. Then every night, we’ll arrange a special themed evening.
We’ve done From Russia With Love, an All White night, and the last night is always in a Bedoin tent in the middle of the bush. They have a ball.
We don’t have an event planner, as i like to be hands on. It’s all about personal service and attention to detail. We want guests to be able to relax, knowing we’ll take care of every tiny little thing.
The recipe for a great celebration is quite simple. It takes good planning, and getting to know the client and what they want. I always ask lots of questions. Plus, i always think you’ve got to have some wow factor to make a celebration truly unforgettable.
I really pull out all the stops for my special family events. Possibly the most spectacular celebration was my son’s 21st. We had a Fire and Ice themed party at Birkenhead House, so i got some special flammable jelly from America that you can light, and set all the swimming pools ablaze. My greatest pleasure is to see guests enjoying themselves. To put this thing together and see people loving it – there isn’t anything better that that!”
My tips for that dream occasion:
- choose music to appeal to all of your guests and vary it, if necessary. For example, a string quartet for drinks on the lawn and a DJ or live band for the dance floor later.
- Put some thought into the guest list. You want everyone to get on, but you also want to add some fun, so be sure to throw in a few “rogue” guests to mix things up!
- Ensure you create the perfect ambience. Lighting, entertainment and staging areas all play a part. And don’t forget the all-important wow factor!